(From Leona's forthcoming book, Chapter 12 "Nature Flourishes on my summit")
Flora and fauna, birds, trees, green foliage, orchards laden with fruit, rivers, brooks, hills and valleys—all of God's goodness flourishes on my chronological summit in reality and in life analogy. Sometimes it may be difficult, but I can still tell the difference between God's glorious creation and some artificial echoes of the real thing.
A few years ago we had a bush in our front yard that never lost its leaves and remained exactly the same size year after year. It wasn’t an evergreen, and it wasn’t one of those plastic Christmas trees, the kind with limbs that fold out or have detached branches to stick into holes in a green metal trunk.
This bush used to be alive and growing. It thrived with watering, sun, and nourishment. Then something happened; we really didn't know what. Suddenly it dried up and died. For some reason the leaves didn't fall off that first year; they just turned brown.
I suggested digging it up and planting a new bush in the same spot. But my late husband Ted complained that the root system was extensive, and he wasn't keen on trying to do such excavation. Then he got an idea and disappeared to the hardware store. On a calm day with no wind he used up two cans of dark green spray paint on that dead bush. The bush looked terrific! No one would have guessed that it wasn't alive and well. We called it our "hypocrite bush," a private joke, but now I've told the secret.
Some deceiving or deceived Christians in summit years have a similar problem. I don't want to be among them, although it is so easy to slip into misrepresentation. I may be mature in age but not mature in spiritual growth and holy behavior. As the years go by, I can slowly allow my spiritual fruit to wither and dry through lack of spiritual nourishment or limited exposure to the Son. I can become preoccupied with legitimate responsibilities of this world and concerned primarily with material things or even with my own increasing limitations and lack of well-being. Not necessarily bad things, but in biblical terms ordinary "cares of this life." Such cares can gradually consume the hours and days and years of my daily life.
I would do well to check my growth, to measure my progress spiritually since I first became alive in Christ when I was “born of water and of the Spirit.” (John 3) I may be coasting on my lifelong reputation and only give the appearance of being Christian. I can so easily spray myself virtuous green to hide my lack of life. Or perhaps others spray me green, people who simply assume I have life when in truth I have withered. My deception, deliberate or unintentional, is inevitably discovered.
It is in my advanced years that I am likely to be put to the test. The road of life gets rough and my natural strength and perseverance abates. If I maintain my life in Christ, I don't need green spray paint to camouflage a lifeless condition. If I am a genuine "planting of the Lord" and not a “hypocrite bush,” I can draw on the strength of the Giver of Life to meet the challenges we all inevitably must face during summit living.