Pass the Fruit Salad

56568838But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

In theory, I like fruit. But in practice? Well, I’m more of a chocolate kind of gal. I can notice the beautiful colors and shapes and agree that the fruit looks quite luscious. But I'm more likely to grab a bagel instead of a banana. While I'm often surprised by how good fruit tastes, I’m not all that adventurous. Give me the more “mainstream” ones like apples, grapes and strawberries. Watermelon and pineapple are yummy. But kiwi? Kumquat? I’ll pass.

It reminds me of the fruit of the spirit. Love and joy? I can grasp those concepts. Yep, I’ve felt it. Seen it. Shown it. I’ve learned to love others, even when they’re not extremely lovable. It’s not always my first instinct, but eventually I come around. I can usually find joy — in my life and in the life of others. I rejoice when others experience joy. These are happy things. Easy enough, right? Well, until someone you love dies. Or leaves. Or crashes mentally, emotionally, financially, professionally. But for the most part, love and joy — all good.

Peace? It’s a beautiful thing, the state I long for in my home and in my world. I don’t always live it, but I try. I tend to be the peacemaker. I try to resolve conflict. And I seek to let God’s peace calm me and guide me. So yeah, peace — we're good.

Yep, this Fruit of the Spirit thing is OK.

But now, just four items into the list, it suddenly gets harder. Patience. I wish I could hurry up and master that one already. Sheesh. It’s one of those things that looks good on a menu (like mango chutney), but something I’ll likely never order for myself. I’m not great at waiting for God to answer me, of hanging in there with a friend whose problem lasts. For. Ever. Yeah, I probably need to work on that one.

Kindness and goodness — oh, good, we’re back on track. I like kindness. I like goodness. I try to be kind to those I meet. I try to live well. That’s enough, right? But am I kind to the people on Facebook who post outrageous, inflammatory, factually incorrect political statements? And I might look good enough — as a mom, as a Christian, as a wife — compared to certain other people, but the fact that I think so tells me I’m probably a tad bit judgmental and probably not as good as I’d like to think I am.

Faithfulness. Yep, I’m a faithful wife. Devoted God-follower. I do OK in the big things. But in the little ones? Like remembering to pray for those I promise to pray for? Like tithing without hesitation? Like holding my tongue when I’ve heard a juicy bit of information? I do my best, but it gets a little more murky in some of those areas.

Only two to go. Yeah, I’ve got this.

Gentleness. I’m (mostly) kind to kittens and babies. (Only not kittens because they make me sneeze.) Is that what you mean? Oh. Gentleness like speaking softly to my kids. Like not beating a non-Christian over the head with my beliefs. Like not letting my blood pressure go through the roof when I’m misunderstood. Like remembering to live humbly, to not think I deserve to be served when instead I should be the one offering to serve without hesitation.

I thought I'd be relieved to move on past that, except we’re left with the really hard one. Self-control. It’s like a pomegranate. All those little seeds. Slippery little suckers. Persevering. Following through with my word. Sticking with something even when it gets hard. Not unwrapping a Hostess cupcake when I should be dieting. Not sitting down with a book when I should be exercising. Not giving up on prayer when I get tired of waiting. It’s all about remaining. Continuing. Getting control of my self — my emotions, my wants, my longings.

Just as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup usually sounds a whole lot better to me than a piece of fruit, it’s easier to live without really examining myself, looking inside, seeking God, accepting my failings. But fruit? It’s perfectly designed by God. To sustain. Nourish. Propagate. Renew. It comes in all colors and sizes and shapes, smooth and rough and mottled and round and angular. Infinite in its variety. Adaptable in different environments.

You know, maybe I’ll have that mango after all.

What Fruit of the Spirit do you struggle with? Please share — and I promise, you're not alone. Let's pray for each other as a community. Leave your comments and needs. I commit to praying for each of you and hope others will join me.

many blessings ICD signature

Kelly Stanley

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she is also a redhead who’s pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. She blogs at kellyostanley.com and calls small-town Indiana her home.

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