But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
Sitting on my kitchen counter is a tray of rocks. Rocks, you say? Yep, but they aren’t just any rocks. They are smoothed shaped rocks with no hard edges, all placed among jeweled glass. On each rock is written a particular word…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Several years ago, the women of a bible study I was in, each made a set as a reminder of what we had just studied.
I wasn’t sure what I would do with mine when I got home. They sat in a bag until I decided that I needed them in a place where I would see them daily. I needed the constant reminder of what my life was supposed to live out if I was living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today, there seems to be an increasing need to present our public lives as perfect, well-put together with perfect children, homes, families, marriages, jobs and might I add to this list physiques?! It’s easy to “look” like we know how to love, live in joy and peace, exude patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Like we’ve got this life thing figured out.
I actually find a strange comfort in seeing someone post a reality of life – a hard day with the kids, an out of control pet, or a funny mishap of some kind. The video of the mom throwing a temper-tantrum in the store while the child looks on in shock and awe just slays me. Haven’t we all secretly wanted to do something similar when life doesn’t respond the way we want it to and we can’t figure out what to do?
What concerns me is that with perfectionism comes pressure, comparison, anxiety, depression, discontentedness, and ultimately a lack of authenticity with each other. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Disciplines, and well-known Christian theologian said, “the fruit of the Spirit is not push, drive, climb, grasp and trample. Life is more than a climb to the top of the heap.”
Authenticity means to conform to an original so as to reproduce essential features; made or done the same way as an original; is sincere with no pretensions.
Hmm…sincere with no pretensions, made in the same way as the original (God), reproducing essential features of the original. So then, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are the fruits of the Spirit that I’m challenged to live out each day. I’m challenged to love when I’m not feeling loving, challenged to joy when I’m not joyful, challenged to peace when I’m filled with anxiety, challenged to patience when I’m impatient. You get the picture. I can’t possibly do this on my own. And the Lord knew that. He made provision for this when He left the Holy Spirit here to empower me and you. Romans 5:3-5; 8:9; John 14:16-17 He also gave me friends who challenge and “sharpen” me to live authentically.
As a young mom, I attended a nationally known fitness class. While the class offered a good fitness program it was missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a Body & Soul Fitness class with her. After class, I knew immediately what was missing from the other program. Relationship. I had attended this other program for two years and didn’t really know anything about the others in the class except their names and their kid’s names. It was a quick in and out, a quick “hello” and “goodbye.”
After only one Body & Soul class though I knew more about these women than I had ever known about the others. This class offered authenticity, comradery, fellowship. It was a place where these women could be real with their daily struggles and know that they wouldn’t be judged, but rather prayed for. No one cared about what each other wore or looked like, how much weight we each needed to lose, or whether or not our houses were clean. I was hooked because what I was really looking for, what I really needed was a group of women that I could live life with – struggles and all – authenticity.
Life will never be perfect. None of us will ever perfectly exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. But we can trust in the One who loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and who despite our imperfections, still works in us. Yielded to the Spirit’s control, His fruit appears, as I live as authentically as possible, surrounded by friends who are doing the same. As we do this, He will be faithful to smooth our rough edges and shine through us.
Is there a particular fruit of the Spirit that you have been working on? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Mary Ward serves as the Marketing Director, Northern Virginia Area Director, and Group Fitness Instructor for Body & Soul Fitness. She currently teaches classes at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA and at the nZone Gym in Chantilly, VA. Mary also sits on the Board of Directors for First Place 4 Health, a sister ministry B&S partners with. She is a speaker and presenter at women’s conferences and retreats.