"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:23—24)
I became a Christian believer at the age of four years old. Which means I have experienced forty (plus) years of God’s Spirit working in my life—shaping, transforming, smoothing out my rough edges, and tending my soul-soil to produce his fruit.
But sometimes, the mind gets fooled. Over time, pride seeps in. Instead of acknowledging God’s transforming power in our life, it becomes easy to claim his fruit as our own. To pat ourselves on the back: That is just who I am. God created me with a proclivity toward peace, patience and kindness. I’ve matured over the years, am wiser, slower to anger, more compelled to love.
It is a subtle change from “it’s God” doing the transforming, to “it’s me.”
An interesting thing happens during prolonged times of stress and life’s ordeals. What is normally easy to conceal, the uglier part of our self, or our sinful nature, starts to peek its head out. And what we previously allocated to the recesses of our personality, painfully rises to the surface. Bitterness. Anger. Pride.
But God often uses trials to dig those roots up. Yes, it is painful. Yet God’s hands are gentle. He is committed to not let us remain as we are, or gloss over our sins. Hatred. Judgment. Meanness. Selfishness.
During an ongoing time of trial in my life, I tried to change the ugly anti-fruits in myself. I sought God. Read his word. Put in the time. But the anti-fruits continued, forcing me to face a difficult question: are the anti-fruits a part of who I truly am?
Yes … apart from God. But there is good news. God is near. God is close. He is not apart. He is “God with us.” His Spirit has made its home with our spirit. They are too closely entwined to be split apart.
And God continues to move and work. He continues to enter into our pain, our trials, our hidden parts of ourselves, our darkness...and bring his light.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“‘…and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
During this Christmas season, may your soul delight in the One who is the true source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of Everyday Jesus and The Bald-Headed, Tattooed, Motorcycle Mama's Devotional Guide for Cancer Warriors & the People Who Love Them. Available at Amazon.com and Arrowhead Parable Christian Store, 1 Harry L. Drive, Johnson City, NY.