Throughout September, our contributors are sharing their thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit.
For my first post, I am tasked with writing a short piece about the fruits of the Spirit. Easy, I thought. I love taking pictures and have thousands to choose from, so I scrolled through and tried to match a picture with one of the fruits – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Nothing seemed to fit. No aha revelations hit me to write about why any one picture embodied one of the fruits.
Next I tried looking at a picture I like and listening inside myself to the feelings it evoked. That worked better, but what I found is that the feelings built upon each other and I realized (for about the millionth time) how vast is God’s wisdom. Love evokes joy, which evokes peace, which brings on the forbearance, which leads to kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They build upon each other, offering baby steps to reaching the fruits.
I am sure that the order of the fruits is significant and that, for instance, faithfulness without love might be like walking a treadmill with a goal to get to North Dakota but finding that at the end of the walk I’m still on that darn treadmill. If faithfulness is the walking and love is the action of setting the goal and achieving it, I’m not going to reach North Dakota any time soon if I depend upon faithfulness without love.
Can there be gentleness without forbearance? A toddler learning to pet a puppy or kitten has to be taught to be gentle often being reminded over and over. It takes forbearance to learn that another creature is smaller and must be cared for. It takes forbearance to temper one’s actions to be gentle. It takes forbearance for children (and sometimes teenagers and adults) to learn that conking one another over the head in order to get the toy they want is not acceptable behavior.
It seems to me that the fruits are a marvelous mixture teaching me how the Spirit blends feelings with actions. Love is a feeling that results in loving behavior towards self and others. Joy has been known to produce bursts of song and dance. Peace — that sought after, elusive, deep down feeling — surges through every fiber of my being and then radiates out. When I am peaceful, my life is peaceful and the people around me react differently. And so it goes with each of the fruits.
I am so grateful that God’s love is freely given so that I can feel it inside and know that even if I am not filled with joy and peace that follow love, they are real and available. It’s a relief to me that self-control is at the end of the list. I hope that is God’s way of assuring me that even though self-control is difficult, it is attainable. Maybe it’s at the end of the list because I have to learn the value of the other fruits before I can understand and have more self-control. Perhaps my human nature that says, “If you want ice cream then go get ice cream,” needs to learn forbearance first so that I understand that wanting and needing are different beasts.
Probably there are Bible studies out there that expound upon Galatians 5:22-23, and maybe I should go find one now that my interest has been aroused. Before I do that, I’d like to show you a few of the pictures that fill me with some of the fruits. These are pictures that jumped in front of me and I was fortunate to capture a miniscule piece of God’s beauty. Looking at them fills me with awe at the majesty of the world God allows us to live in, and in the process, the fruits flow through me.
Written by Kathy
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.