Am I Flourishing or Withering?

The state of my spiritual life, like the state of yours, is very simple: we’re either flourishing or we’re withering.

I can’t really explain why some of the pecan trees in our orchard are flourishing, with big, beautiful nuts on them, while others that were alive last year are now as dead as can be. Even if I can’t explain it, it’s a great visual reminder that my soul is constantly either being given life or having the life sucked out of it.

Over the years, I’ve learned to pay attention to a few indicators of my flourishing vs. my withering. You may have others you could add to your own list, but I would guess these are relevant to you too.

When I’m flourishing:

  • I’m more patient and less irritable.
  • Not getting my way on something bothers me less than it does at other times.
  • I’m much more able to enjoy time with my wife, my kids, and our family and friends, because I’m much more “there” with them rather than being distracted.
  • I sleep better, rather than having my mind racing at night trying to problem-solve even while I’m dreaming.
  • I don’t feel in a hurry.
  • I’m able to get the important things done and ignore stuff that doesn’t matter.

When I’m withering, the opposites of each of these things are true.

One of the puzzling things about these pecan trees is that they’re right next to each other. They received the same sunlight. They’ve both been irrigated. The exact same care has been given to both of them. Yet one is very alive and producing pecans that will be very tasty, while the other will become firewood.

A look at my spiritual life would be puzzling in the same way. God’s grace has always been available to me in super-abundance, with everything at hand that’s needed to live a life fully connected to God and others. At times my life has brought about some good things and I have loved God and people well. At other times, I haven’t had much life in me, but have only been dry and useless.

The good news is, that unlike a pecan tree, I have the response-ability to reconnect when I notice some of the warning signs of withering. I can put the conditions for growth back into place, and allow God’s good grace to have its effect on me.

What about you? Are you flourishing, or withering?

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. - John 15:4-6