“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
Have you ever read a passage in the Bible that’s made you feel completely inadequate, inept, and unfit to be a wife? And to be a mother? Yikes!
For me, one such passage was Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
I would read that Scripture again and again. I would meditate on it, hoping that it would ooze its way into my soul and relieve me from my less-than-perfect ways. But, day after day I’d look at myself and see all my imperfections– namely my snippy attitude and lost tempers.
Then, the unimaginable happened. Perhaps you can relate? I began to see my imperfections reflected in the behavior of my children. Humiliating. Especially when they would say, “But, Mom, that’s what you say (or do).” Gulp.
I did what any of us would do in that situation and decided I needed to change. I started my journey of change by sitting my three little girls down, and we had a heart-to-heart. I explained that some of my behavior was not honoring God, and that I was making a commitment to change my ways.
That would be enough reflect the fruit, right? A simple explanation and a declaration with some grit of determination behind it?
Sigh. Well. I hate to say it. I’m really not sure what I expected to happen after this conversation. Perhaps some miraculous God-given behavioral modification treatment program that worked instantly. Yeah, that would have been nice. But no, I was back to my lost tempers in no time flat. However, this time I had the pleasure of seeing three sets of angel eyes say, “But, Mom, I thought you were going to honor God now.” Double gulp.
Desperation drove me back to the Scripture. “But the fruit of the Spirit”. Fruit. Not a gift. Not something in a beautiful package that can be unwrapped and instantly enjoyed by the owner (and everyone else). Not something given. Something grown.
New determination filled me. I could do this. Really. I could. It wasn’t going to happen overnight, and it would take discipline on my part, not to mention a generous portion of God’s grace, but I could do this.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul explains that different gifts of the Spirit are given to different people. Therefore, if love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control were gifts, then some unfortunate soul would have no ability to ever obtain joy, or love, for that matter.
So I realized I could do this because it’s not a gift, these are fruit– borne out of our relationship with the Lord. These are fruit, available to any and all. This is because they’re not given, they’re grown. Grown through prayer, grown through reading the Bible, grown through the ins and outs of our daily lives, grown as we grow in our walk with the Lord.
I decided this idea had to be shared with my daughters, but how? How could I teach my little ones (my oldest was 6 at the time) this important truth, that character is developed over time, that it takes God’s grace, perseverance, and determination? Is there any resource on fruit of the spirit for kids? How could I teach them about it in a way that they could understand? I decided that stories and hands-on activities were the best way to begin to shape their young, impressionable minds (oh yeah, an example helps too. Ahem).
Over the next 10 weeks, I pored over the Scripture and poured into my girls. At times I had difficulty finding “fruit of the spirit for kids”, stories that I wanted to share with them. Too shallow. Too boring. Too secular. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful books out there, but in some cases, for some of the lessons, I was hunting something specific, something so narrow, that I couldn’t find an appropriate match.
In these cases, through prayer, I wound up writing my own story and making pitiful crayon drawings to go with them. It may be silly, but I was nervous to share the stories I had written with my children. Needless to say, despite evidence to my extreme lack of artistic abilities, my girls (and incidentally all their friends) instantly fell in love with the first story I had written, The Little Apple Seed, and begged that I read it to them again and again.
They also loved the activities we did. By the end of the 10 weeks we had made peace pillows to remind us that God’s peace guards our hearts and minds, did exercises to remind us that God’s joy is our strength, tasted lemons, watched cans of soda explode, planted bean seeds, ran around sticking stickers on each other (yes, I was crazy. I do NOT recommend that you do that one!), tasted a snack made with salt vs. sugar, stuck bamboo skewers into balloons, had a self-control tent, and more.
In the end I did a silhouette outline of each girl and had them draw pictures of themselves exemplifying each attribute. We glued their drawings onto their silhouette and wrote, “Look at me grow the fruit of the Spirit.” We were sad to see the unit end. We had so much fun (OK, maybe sticker clean up wasn’t so much fun, but other than that, the unit was a blast), and had learned a lot. But the best part was we had all grown.
It’s about God’s grace being more than enough to sustain us in each and every circumstance and to help us grow in His ways. Know that you can have a sweet-tasting life to those around you, but it will not come from your ability to effect change in your own life. A sweet-tasting life is the product (or fruit) of living a life in devotion to God and allowing His character and presence to shine through you.