Is it ok to admit there are parts of the Bible that discourage me?
Because when I look at the reality and balance of my own life and compare it to some of the hopes and dreams God has for me in the Bible, I get discouraged. Discouraged at the disconnect between my everyday and God’s forever.
Because there are parts of me that don’t reflect what God desires for me. I seem to have less faith, less joy, less love, less freedom than God wants to shower me with.
I look at the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 and see gaps in my love, joy, peace, patience (just ask my kids), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (just ask my resting heart rate and waistline). And as I look at these things, all good and wonderful characteristics that I want to exhibit and experience, I slump in my chair and huff back my hair.
So why, you may ask, would I want to do a blog series on something that feels insurmountable?
Because I like to wrestle. I like to wrestle with hard parts of the Bible because in them I see where I need the most growth.
Because I know my own secret and not so secret self that shows up when I least want it to. In times of stress, tiredness, places where lack of faith and lack of joy reign. And I’ve wrestled with them too long on my own.
Because as I lie in bed some mornings, determined that today is the day for more joy, more peace, more patience, more love, I realize that all the other days that started the same didn’t get me much further.
Because I have it wrong.
The Galatians, who Paul wrote to about these Fruits of the Spirit, fell into the same trap I do. They were living the lie that if they just tried harder, learned more, kept a tighter reign, then the sorries would be less and they would inch forward slowly into being people who pleased God.
But they were trapped. Trapped in the cycle of not being able to do it on their own, but believing this was what they had to do to please God.
We can get trapped in the idea that the Fruits of the Spirit are a spiritual end game that we need to attain and then God will be pleased with us. But this is backward.
We can become trapped in a cycle of hopelessness and weariness when what God desires for us is Freedom.
Because the Fruits of the Spirit aren’t the gold star of our spirituality.
The Fruits of the Spirit represent the freedom we can have when we rely on Christ and the Holy Spirit to help us smooth the rough edges of our life.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to direct us, to guide our decisions and our path, then we begin to experience true freedom.
Freedom from those behaviours that crush us. Filling the gaps with physical and chemical love that isn’t love, stepping on others in pursuit of praise and value, stirring the pot in our righteous indignation.
Missing God in the midst of searching for meaning.
What would it look like to feel the Holy Spirit’s enabling? To take baby steps that don’t turn into backslides? To experience freedom where there once was frustration and fear?
I want more. More of God’s Spirit in my life to change and mould my clay spirit.
More hope, love, peace, patience, joy.
More fruit and less guilt.
What a gift God offers to us! Freedom in place of slavery to my own limits and sin.
We don’t need to be discouraged by these Fruit-filled dreams God has for us. Because he knows we can’t do this under our own determination and grace.
His life-giving, life-changing gift is his Spirit in us, guiding and changing, illuminating and peace-giving.