It’s spring. For many, spring’s announcement is the appearance of flowers and the greening of grass.
For me, it is piles and piles of brown leaves. My Texas Live Oak trees shed leaves in the spring leaving behind the growth that provides respite from the summer sun’s assault.
This year the Texas freezer week in February stripped branches at one time.
We are drowning in leaves. The truth is we are drowning in decay.
Whether my pesky live oak demons or the amber and auburn oaks of fall, all leaves flutter to earth because they are dying. The tree dispenses with what is longer necessary.
The process of decay is a genius system. It clears the earth of debris and provides the fuel for new growth.
Sadly, we associate decay with deterioration. Each year’s birthday candles welcome another set of maladies, the result of aging. One day, final breaths give way to something else…decay.
It’s not a pleasant picture of the future.
The songwriter Henry Lyte shared this dim view of life. In 1820 he visited a friend, William Augustus Le Hunte, who was dying. As Lyte sat with his Hunte, his friend kept whispering, “abide with me.”
Twenty-seven years dropped off of Lyte’s life, and Lyte developed the killer disease tuberculosis. His mind drifted back to the hoarse words whispered to him. He put his thoughts to verse in an appropriate song called Abide with Me.
The second verse tells the story of his struggle:
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me
Change and decay. The emerald cemetery grass finds its fertilizer there. Decay invades the eyes as they dim, and our ears develop a fuzz. Everything reminds us of decay.
Yet, all should keep two truths about decay close, for they provide hope.
Neglect Breeds Decay
While the natural world experiences obvious decay, humans can promote their own form of decay.
Its genesis is neglect.
After a year of avoiding the gym due to COVID-19, I returned. I was sore and tired. I had forgotten how much I had lost, even though I took daily walks. The neglect loosened muscles.
Minds can also find themselves decaying. Our society contributes to modern mental decay. Media in all forms and ideologies ladle up in a soup of banality that keeps us from chewing on the deeper issues of the day. Pundits on all sides tell us what to think. Preachers instruct us on what to believe.
Soon, you accept any proposition. We take our truth like a dog takes a pill wrapped in something tasty.
The less we do what is hard, the more difficult the hard becomes. Neglect rots our souls through lack of Bible study, our minds through lack of thinking, and relationships through lack of contact.
That depressing picture gives way to another view.
Decay Promotes New Growth
The fertile garden’s mulch is nothing more than the decaying matter of something that once was alive. By its decomposition, it coaxes shoots to the surface and erupts buds into blossoms.
It is the decay that produces the new growth.
The hope of life is that much of what we do now need to go away, decay, and fertilize the seedbed of renewal. Minds can grasp new ideas when old ideas fade. The dry soul can, in frustration, return to a fresh examination of God’s word. Friendships rekindle, and muscles harden with renewed work.
When we get tired of the decay in our lives, we will take the step to a new life. But remember, it is the decay that creates.
It is true that, as Lyte said, change and decay all around we see. If used to improve, change, and renew, decay is not to be feared but added to a growing life.
What’s decaying in your life, and how is it remaking you?