It happened again. It was a beautiful, sunny, perfect day. I was relaxed and at rest on the couch and having a conversation with a great friend. And it happened… again.
The conversation that morning began light and fun. But it took a subtle turn as the conversation drifted into deeper water (difficult issues about life and struggles and people). I began drifting into an all too familiar self-righteousness, a “Holier than thou” way of thinking.
You’ve seen this happen… some people make it sound better, calling it a “soapbox”. It usually occurs when someone feels like they have a certain thing “figured out”, nailed, are living it well, and so they begin to “tell it like it is.” Unaware, intentionally or not, they begin to look down on and minimize those who don’t have it figured out, who aren’t living it as well, who aren’t doing it ‘right’.
I get like this sometimes. I boil down complex issues to a single sentence, a simple tip, technique, or bit of advice. “If they had only done x, y, and z. this wouldn’t have happened!” “Don’t they know the bible says xyz about that?!” “They are just messed up.” “They brought it upon themselves!” “All you gotta do is…” And on it goes.
I might have gone along unaware of myself and my impact, until when, with feet planted firmly on my soapbox from which I’m expertly diagnosing and solving yet another of the world’s problems, I’m stopped dead in my tracks — utterly halted by a simple, loving act.
A Mirror. My friend held up a mirror. And in it I saw a glimpse of the fruit that is my life.
My life wasn’t bearing the fruit I hoped it would.
It used to be enough… being ‘right’… having ‘all the answers’… insisting on being heard and understood. But not anymore. It’s an empty feeling. It’s an alone feeling. And it can hurt others. Being ‘right’ is only satisfying if it builds up, if it brings life, if it finds me closer to another person. But I’m finding it seldom does. Having to be ‘right’, having to be ‘heard’ is a crutch I’ve leaned upon to keep myself feeling good about myself and my choices. It is heinous self-protection. It has stunted my personal growth and isolated me.
It isn’t the point anyway. The fruit of “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” [Gen 2:17] wasn’t the intended goal — it is supposed to be the fruit from the Tree of LIFE [Gen 2:9/Rev 22:2]. It is LIFE we are to receive, and LIFE we are to bring — that is the good fruit.
The bible describes the best kind of fruit a life can offer — a fruit grown in the soil of partnership between God and people. It is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Bible refers to this fruit as the “fruit of the Spirit”. This is the fruit I want my life to bring to others. And it is the fruit I desperately need others to offer me.
In sharp contrast, the 21st century version of fruit of the Spirit looks to me more like efficiency, productivity, accomplishment, busyness, self-importance, self-reliance, appearing to have it all together, popularity, etc. These aren’t what I want to mark my short time on the planet. How about you? Which fruit sounds better? And which do you find yourself offering the people around you?
How did I, in the short span of a conversation, drift so radically from my goal-fruit? How do any of us?
Most of us are simply unaware of the impact of our lives. Or, we down-play our significance in the lives of those around us. And, we think our influence is contained within the conversation at hand, but the effect of our life ripples out, whether or not we’re aware. The seeds of the fruit of our life scatter far and wide. (Tweet this)
One of the most sobering bible verses to me shows up in the story of one of the strongest, bravest men who ever lived. In one of the most critically important moments of his life, he found himself fruit-less —
This man, who had known very well the fruit given him by the Spirit, did not know the Spirit had left him. He assumed the fruit was still present within him — but without the source, the fruit was gone. He wasn’t even aware of it.
And this scares the hell out of me.
When I think of my future, I assume God will be with me. I assume the fruit of His Spirit will just be present, always available to me, always a part of me. And yet, just like Samson in the Judges story, I neglect the orchard and pray the fruit remains plentiful. Story-lines like this don’t end well for anyone.
A future full of abundant fruit will not come if we neglect our hearts. (Prov 4:23) As time moves along in our world, and in our lives, we see this truth played out — neglect brings a natural decline.
Consider this — in the future as described in the bible, we’re told it will be “difficult” (the KJV refers to it as “perilous times”). But, surprisingly, it isn’t warnings about economic and social collapse and brutality that are the focus, it is instead the state of the heart — the absence of the fruit of the Spirit.
What a sobering thought… that in the end what undermines our whole society, our whole world, is not overt evil, but instead, the absence of good fruit.
Read through the list for yourself — [2 Tim 3:31-6]
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
It doesn’t take much imagination to already see this all around us. Can you see glimpses of these traits in your own life? I recognize FAR too many manifestations in mine.
I want to change this! There is a better story I want to live. I want my life to be marked by Love… Joy… Peace… Patience… Kindness… Goodness… Faithfulness…Gentleness… Self-control. Can you imagine, for a second, if your wife were filled with this fruit?! Or your husband?! Can you imagine being a friend to someone filled with this?! Can you imagine being in need and running across someone filled like this?! Everything else pales in comparison, doesn’t it?
Desire is critical.
Awareness is key.
We need mirrors in our lives.
We need to be mirrors for each other, to invite others in, to give them permission to show us ourselves, freedom to remind us of our blind-spots, trust to remind us of what is most true of us — both the rough edges and the good (maybe more-so the good – to continually draw it out of us.) We need mirrors to help us look back and to give us hope for what is ahead.
We need Jesus.
This is one of the truly beautiful things about following Jesus — that in our interaction with Him and each other we find — not condemnation or shame or fear or abuse or coercion — we find FREEDOM. We find fruit.
Fruit is grown. Someone tills and plants, sun shines, rains fall, fruit is harvested. Like most things between God and people, there is a partnership. Our heart is the soil, and the Spirit is the seed, and he brings the sun and rain. We do what we can do — and God does what only God can do. Growing fruit in our lives isn’t about willpower, it’s about willingness. It isn’t that we can ‘pull it off’, it’s about what we’re willing to allow in.
My friend held up to me a mirror.
It wasn’t a physical mirror (think metaphorically). It was a loving mirror to my own life. My past struggles. My present shortcomings in certain arenas of my life. My true-self and who I wanted to be, who I needed to be for other’s sake. And it had it’s intended effect — humbled, I recanted. And, the world did in that moment make perfect sense. It wasn’t that I was finally proven ‘right‘ or my voice finally heard, it was that the whole point of it all became crystal clear. I caught a glimpse of the true fruit of life. In that moment I felt for the other person… love expanded in my chest… I felt patience calm me… I felt compassion and kindness replace judgment and anger… I felt a growing urge to be gentle and tender. I tasted the unmistakable sweetness of fruit.
Do you have any “Mirrors” in your own life?
Who might you invite into your private world to help you see your “blind spots” (both the rough areas and the good)?
Have you ever asked the Great Fruit Grower to grow this fruit in your life?
Would you be willing to read/discuss this article with a friend or two and see what comes of it?
May this grow in all of us as we nurture the good fruit,
Want to dive a little deeper? I invite you to let this prayer come from your heart.
Jesus, be my mirror. In fact, surround me with mirrors. I don’t want blind-spots. And I really don’t want to not “know the LORD had departed from him”. I don’t want to live without your Spirit. I don’t want to live another day, not another moment, without the source of true LIFE. I want You.
When I feel anxious because I’ve just been exposed, help me trust you. When I feel “bad” about myself, help me to remember how You feel about me. When I want to run from myself and my failures and shortcomings, help me to trust you, to see you as a good Dad, to allow you to Father me. And, when I feel like change will never happen, when it feels impossible, when it feels like it’s taking forever, help me believe that you’re not done yet.
Fill me with your Spirit. And let the fruit of your Spirit change me, give me boldness, encourage me, and change the course of my life. Help me live from the fruit of your Spirit.
Surround me with encouragers. Show me what is most true, my true heart. Draw out from me the good stored up in my heart. Remind me often of who I am and who I am yet to be.
And, for all those times I’ve really blown it, ranted, raved, puffed up my chest, minimized others, bloated myself, please redeem it. Heal those I’ve hurt. Lift up those I’ve tried to make feel small. Teach me the way of compassion. Where I can make amends, orchestrate it. Fill in the cracks I’ve created in other’s lives. Restore them. Renew them. Release them from the prison my words and attitude and actions have tried to build around them. Satisfy their the thirst I’ve created by withholding the life-giving water of my understanding, support, time, attention, kindness, and compassion. Fill THEM with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let them taste of your life-giving fruit.
Help me let go of all that doesn’t bring life. Heal me in all the places that drive my need to be right, to have all the answers, to need to feel “better than” someone else, to have my voice heard above another’s. When I feel the urge to self-protect, catch me, remind me, heal me, restore my heart, give me the strength to be vulnerable.
Fill me with hope for the future. I want to play a role in making this a better marriage, a better friendship, a better parent, a better coworker, a better member of my community, I want to make this a better world, but I know it has to start with my own heart.
Jesus, you are the source.
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Photo Credit – Fruit Stand – http://chocolateorchid.blogspot.com/2010/12/carolyns-corner-on-fruits-galore.html
Photo Credit – Blind-spot Mirror – Advertisement found online