Over the past few months our church has been studying the life of Daniel. Several weeks ago we broke into groups and were supposed to think of something from the chapter we'd covered that week that we wanted to try to specifically put into practice. As I had been listening to the teaching that night, one of the things that really struck me was how Daniel is described as having an "excellence of spirit." I pondered what this looks like and came down to the fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." I have always prayed for these attributes to be present in my life and the lives of my children. If I really want to love people unconditionally with a pure love as Jesus did, and as I wish to be loved, these would be evident in my life. However, this is easier said than done, as these things do not come naturally to us (as humans living in a fallen world, that is.) I decided for this particular week to focus on two of these attributes in particular, kindness and gentleness - specifically with my children.
As I woke up early the next day to have a little quiet time and to pray I asked that the Lord would help me to be kind and gentle with my children, and it didn't take long for me to have opportunities to practice. Almost immediately my children were awake, demanding, and making messes and taking too long to do simple things and generally testing my kindness in a myriad of ways. It showed me just how unnatural it is for me to respond gently to my children. As situations continued to arise I would start to fail, be reminded and do a little better. This continued throughout the day and the next few days, but as the week began to wear I began to exhaust myself. I felt so very aware of my own inadequacies to excel in even just these two areas of loving my children (and others.) I felt completely overwhelmed at the thought of trying to focus on even these two attributes, let alone the others. Oh boy. With a sigh of exasperation I brought the verses to mind again, and all of the sudden something struck me. Something that is so obvious I can hardly believe how all these years I have overlooked or ignored it, and yet it's in the very first sentence: "The fruits of the spirit are:" Wait. These are not just things to strive for, focus on and with hard work, eventually master. I believe that in and of ourselves that is an impossible task for we are imperfect people. No, I think I've had it all wrong, that's not what this is saying at all. It is saying that these things are fruits. (Obviously.) One of the definitions of fruit, as defined by Merriam-Webster is "the effect or consequence of an action or operation." So then I re-read that first sentence again. The "fruits of the Spirit are..." This sentence is referring to the holy spirit that is given to us, as believers in Jesus Christ to live inside us. Just this morning I was reading in 1 John 3 and in verses 23-24 (of the Message) it says "Again, this
is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ.
He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we
keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us.
And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by
the Spirit he gave us."
So here it seems is the first piece. I, as a believer am commanded to believe in Jesus, to love others and as I keep these commands I live deeply in him, and he and I and I experience that by his presence in me, his spirit. And the fruits (effects of) his Spirit living in my life are
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Up until this point I feel that I have, by and large been trying to separate these things. I love God believe in him, and try to show it by having these attributes in my life, these which I am continually striving-and failing. The failure here would seem to be because I am trying to do them on my own strength, and these are not fruits that come from Michelle trying hard (though sometimes I come up with a half decent imitation before failing) but by focusing on loving and serving God and letting him fill me up with his Holy Spirit and shine through my life. We are independent people. We love to prove ourselves. We however, are weak people. We were made weak to exemplify our Father's strength in our lives. The more I try to prove my self, the harder I fall, but the more I focus on him and asking him to live through me the more I allow his Spirit to take over my natural instincts (which fight against selflessness and all these things) and to truly love and serve those around me. I feel like this is just the beginning of a new revelation in my life, and hopefully in my way of living. Things I have always known, yet continually seem to forget. May the Lord be continually glorified through my weakness.