Last week, during the video call of a group I started for Young Christian Creatives, a woman read an essay she wrote about how collecting shells has enhanced her devotional life. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
So, today, when walking through the woods and coming upon a grouping of white shelf fungus, I was struck by how similar they looked to shells. A kind of forest clam, I suppose.
They both grow outward in rings. I hadn’t considered this pattern in either of them, but looking closely, I could see this was true. Shells were tidier, more uniform in their progression. The fungi were messier – like pancakes when I add a little more to them after they had already started cooking. But the principle was the same.
This, then, led me to think of the rings of trees. It was easy to find example of those, with many of the logs that fall across the path being chain-sawed for removal. The consistency and clarity of the rings are beautiful in themselves.
How wondrous to think the sapling is still visible at the core, surrounded by all the years of development.
Could spiritual growth be like that? Perhaps layer upon layer add onto a core or an underlying foundation. We are told in Scripture that “his mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). Could each experience of his mercy daily add another layer of surety and conviction to our lives?
John 1:16 tells us that “from (Christ’s) fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Paul describes our spiritual growth as being “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Cor. 3:18) A little more is incrementally added over a long period of time.
Great beauty accumulates.
But so does great ugliness. It all depends on what is being added:
“Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:6)
Over time, disobedience can grow a hard shell over one’s heart for the Lord. Small moral choices pile up. Refusal to know the LORD can start as small, repeatable disregard.
How I praise God that he can, at any time, break into such a pattern. I find this curious cross-section of a trunk – with what looks like a pointer buried into the growth rings. It reminds me of a placement pin on a map, or a “you-are-here” indicator.
It is a visual remembrance that “Today, if you hear his voice,” as Hebrews 3:7-8 says “do not harden your hearts.” God has the power to counteract the long-term effect of past wrong choices. If we hear and respond.
And daily layer onto our lives his mercy and grace.
Lord, all through your creation we see these examples of growth rings. We invite you to transform us into something glorious through the daily application of your grace.
Reader: did I miss one? Can you think of another natural example of growth by layers? If so, email me with it. I’d love to hear it!