I worked with preschoolers for a few years and during that time, I had some of the most frustrating experiences and some of the most rewarding of my topsy-turvy career path. The moment when a kid goes from utter confusion to understanding is incredibly rewarding. When the kid who thinks he can’t do it and summons the courage to try, realizing he’s more competent than he ever thought possible makes me want to jump for joy. Watching that little kid leave your class ready and confident to go to the next grade with his head held high leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.
Because it was a Christian school, one of the things we taught the little ones was the fruit of the Spirit. We would give them this cute little worksheet where each character trait was written in a different fruit and we would talk about what each of them meant in their lives.
Recently, as I was thinking about this, I realized just how pervasive this silly and flawed way of thinking is. I’ve heard people talk about the fruits of the Spirit, an easy slip of the tongue that can completely change the meaning of the truth Paul wrote about.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
If these nine character traits are separate fruits of the Spirit, then we can treat them like we shop for produce at a grocery store.
I would like some more joy, let me pile those in my cart.
Peace is a staple on every shopping list.
But I don’t want any self-control, so I’ll pass on that.
But if these nine characteristics are the fruit of the Spirit, the result of his presence and a natural outpouring of his character, that means you can’t pick and choose which ones you want. More than that, if you don’t have one of them, you have some defective fruit. Ouch!
What’s the state of your fruit?
The most beautiful thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that we aren’t responsible for growing it. We’re not the consumer who’s responsible for purchasing or even the farmer who’s growing these character traits: we’re the tree. This doesn’t pop up as a result of trying to be “good”. It’s not a result of striving but is a natural outpouring of the Holy Spirit residing within us.
Have you ever spent so much time around someone that you began to speak like or have the same mannerisms as them? It’s the exact same thing with the Holy Spirit: the more time we spend with him, the more we’ll begin to sound like him. Our actions will mirror his over time as we continue to be in his presence and allow his heart to become our own.
So, if you find that the fruit spread of your heart is lacking, I encourage you to spend some more time with God today. Allow yourself to experience his character and then go be just like him to the world around you, from the outpouring of what he’s already done in you.