I used to wear a silver bracelet everyday that had the Fruit of the Spirit listed on it: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. It was beautiful, shiny and expensive. I saved up for it and I was proud to wear it. I wore it as a of how I should be living my life. I wore it so that I could be a “good Christian.” I wore it so that others would know I was a Christian. Some days the words on the bracelet were a painful prompting and other days they were outright traumatic when the disparity of my actions, the status of my heart and the words on my bracelet did not line up. As much as I wanted the bracelet to be a testimony to my life, it was not.
For many years the term “good Christian” used to stir up a deep angst within me that was a culmination of years of hurt, self-torment and judgment for not measuring up. I now know that it was the spirit of religion that made me feel this way. It never was God. I grew up with an empty void inside of me because I was lacking a personal relationship with Jesus. Religion had sniggled its way into my world and had taken up residence in my mind and in my heart, causing me to constantly battle fear, judgment, condemnation, self-hatred and guilt.
I had missed the part of that verse (Galatians 5.22) that explains this is the FRUIT of the Spirit, and instead grew up believing that this was a bar to measure my behavior, to mark and weigh my external actions and way of life. It was a list of words we memorized in Sunday School and we sang cheerily in songs. It always left me feeling like I didn’t measure up. Was I really patient today? Did I truly exhibit self-control? Did I love that person? All too often, the answer seemed to be “No.”
The truth is that the fruit of our lives is the of living in submission to the Holy Spirit. We must have relationship with Him first, and realize our need for Him in our lives before we will ever submit to Him. Just as in a relationship with a person, we must learn to trust them before we will make a place for them in our lives, and ultimately allow them to influence us. We must do the same with Holy Spirit.
Fruit is very revealing, as it is a testimony of the spirit to which you are submitting. Are you living in submission to the flesh (yourself) or are you living in submission to Holy Spirit? One need only examine the fruit of your life to know the answer.
Recently on a lovely spring day I went on a walk. The view from my path was of lush green leaves and beautiful wildflowers as far as I could see. The birds were singing and the wind was blowing. New life was everywhere. I began to notice that many of the trees along my path had these peculiar growths on their branches that looked like fruit. The flesh was pink, and it looked and even felt like an apple. I also saw what looked to be a later version that was brown and dried up, and some of them had even fallen to the ground and split open. I knew the trees to be oak trees, so I couldn’t imagine what this ‘fruit’ might be. After doing some research I learned that these are called Apple Oak Galls. They are created when a Gall Wasp deposits an egg into a leaf. A wasp grows inside the gall, and when it is fully grown it will exit the growth. This process damages the tree. It all was a striking metaphor of false fruit: fruit that looks good but isn’t real. These looked like apples, but they were not. No good thing came from them. The apple galls reminded me of my bracelet: bright and shiny but not the real thing.
My own lesson from all of this is threefold.
1) Fruit is not something you strive for, but instead it is the result, or the culmination of what’s inside. It is the testimony of the spirit to which you are submitted.
2) I want to live fully submitted to Holy Spirit, which means that I continually and humbly present my heart to God to assess if I am right with Him. He is faithful to reveal the parts that need some work. My heart is only mine to steward, mine to guard, and it is precious.
3) In union with God, we are glorious creatures revealing to the world the person of Jesus, and we are each one a work in progress.
As I reflect back on my old ways of thinking, and my old life I am so grateful. I am grateful that God faithfully brought me to the more of Him when I became hungry enough to pursue Him, and forsake religion. I am grateful that I am no longer living as a captive to debilitating fear. I’m grateful that my fruit is changing from the fruit of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit. I am grateful that His mercies are new every morning.
Without Jesus we are sentenced to an empty life full of striving and fear, always battling, never winning and never knowing true peace. I am a testimony to the fact that you can go to church, and even be a “Christian” without knowing the truth of an intimate relationship with God, and without experiencing the fruit of that relationship. The fruit in our lives is a marker, or a signpost, of the status of our hearts.
My own process has certainly not been overnight, as each issue in my own heart had to be bravely faced and dealt with one by one. Each battle required courage, compassion and deep honesty in order to come out victorious on the other side. Fear had to be faced to make room for love. Judgment had to be annihilated to make room for compassion. Condemnation had to disband to make room for grace. Jealousy had to be strangled to make room for promotion. Selfish ambition had to be squeezed out to make room for a greater purpose. Self-hatred had to be extinguished to make room for abundance. Pain had to be felt in order to make room for healing.
You are a beloved child of God, and His greatest desire is to make you more like Him. The good news is that there is hope for you, just as there is hope for me. When we live in partnership with God, we show the world great beauty and profound love, but we can’t do it on our own. May the fruit of your own life always be good. It might just look like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If this blessed you in any way, please share.