God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! [Psalm 51:10-12 (MSG)]
Earlier this year, upon seeing the browning and nearly naked cypress trees at the bird sanctuary, the visitor asked if Hurricane Irma had killed them. I explained that the bald and pond cypress weren’t dead, just dormant. Being deciduous, they shed their leaves annually and were just enjoying a much needed rest during the shorter days and dryer conditions of winter. I reassured her that, in a month or so, their bright green needles would return and new growth would sprout from their branches. Today, the forest is verdant throughout the swamp.
While it is possible to force trees to evade dormancy by keeping them inside and controlling the light, temperature and water conditions, it would greatly shorten the plant’s lifespan; they’re not meant to leaf and branch continually. Dormancy is vital for the survival of deciduous trees and the way they withstand unfavorable growing conditions. When better conditions return, the trees wake up and start to bud and blossom again.
While dormancy is good for trees, dormancy is not usually considered a good thing when applied to Christians. A study in Great Britain found that 55 percent of those who identify themselves as Christian never read the Bible, 29 percent never pray, and a third of them don’t even attend church; it called these people “dormant Christians.” When God’s word isn’t growing in our hearts or we fail to bear the Fruit of the Spirit, some people say we’re in “spiritual dormancy.” Superficial, uncommitted, wilting or dying faith like this seems more a case of failure to thrive than dormancy. Just because growth isn’t obvious when a tree is dormant doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Dormancy is when the tree gathers strength, prepares for leafing and branching, and is the best time for pruning in preparation for new growth!
I’ve seen too many people lose their zeal for Christ because they haven’t taken a rest from their busyness for Him to spend time abiding in Him. It’s often when they’ve forgotten to spend time in His rest that their spiritual lives go dead. Sometimes, like trees, we need to retreat into dormancy to rest, do some pruning, and prepare ourselves to take our next steps in God’s ministry. Even Jesus took time away from His ministry for prayer and guidance.
During these next few months, my husband and I will be travelling a great deal. While I remain committed to prayer, worship, study, and journaling, there will be times when writing and posting will be difficult, if not impossible. Last year, I solved this problem with some “summer re-runs.” Knowing how refreshed and enthusiastic I felt upon my return to writing, I think dormancy is a far better term. So, like the cypress trees that go dormant in adverse conditions, I will take a break when circumstances are not conducive to writing. Unlike the trees, however, I won’t change color or shed my needles in preparation for dormancy. Instead, I’ve selected a few old devotions to repost and, with over 1,500 devotions from the last four years, I have plenty from which to choose. Throughout the next few months, they will be scattered in among new ones. So, if you see a devotion you’ve read before, don’t worry; I’m not dead, I’ve just gone dormant!