My friend Reed Dunn says that the fruits of the spirit are in order and one fruit produces the next. He says you don’t come to Christ and jump into mastery of all nine fruits, you start with Love and the rest grow. I love that image because my growth is often retarded , which is particularly frustrating when one is in their 50’s. I always thought there was some age where I’d have it all figured out, all together, but that point continues to allude me. But if I look at the list as a progress chart and realize that pruning will take me back to the beginning, well the beginning is love and what a great place to start.
retard [ ri-tahrd] verb (used with object) — to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.dictionary.com
I know I over use that word and many find it offensive, but I so clearly see in myself where my growth is so slow, development and progress are delayed to the point one would wonder if they even exist and the word just so aptly describes that process. I looked up the synonyms and none of them are any less offensive, yet still …
I have struggled with depression for years, probably much of my life. Depression makes me start every thought with, “I hate everything”. When my depression rages out of control every thought starts with, “I <expletive> hate everything”. Depression makes me focus on what I hate and it starts with looking in the mirror and thinking, “Ugh, I hate her!” My doctor says that it’s particularly hard for Christian women to deal with depression because the Christian culture tells us we struggle because we don’t have enough faith, we’re aren’t trusting in Jesus, we aren’t surrendering our lives, but it’s just not that simple. Depression is my low hanging fruit, my apple in the garden, it’s easy for Satan to convince me that there is nothing to love – the very foundation of the fruits and to destroy a house you really have to start with the foundation!
Russell and I used to have a lot of “heated discussions” because his argument was always, “That’s not right.” And of course 99.9999999% of the time he was right, but being right didn’t always acknowledge that my feelings don’t just change or disappear because they aren’t right. It may be 100% wrong to look in the mirror and say, “I hate her.” But the feeling is there and must be acknowledged. We learned in our “discussions” that sometimes you can either be right or have a relationship. I hated that he was always right, because that meant I had to be wrong, and who wants to be wrong, but in relationship you can understand another’s point of view and get beyond being right or wrong and reach a point of understanding. And understanding is way more compassionate than right and wrong.
My Grandma used to say, “Do you blame me?” a lot! She’d be telling some story about what she’d done or how she’d been treated and continually seek approval. In retrospect, and after typing her memoir, I realize that validation was something she didn’t receive much of in her life and in her old age she just straight out asked for it. I, being who I am, loved to be out of eye sight of her, because she didn’t hear very well, and say, every time, “I do, I blame you!” (Forgive me Grandma, but Rice DNA is S T R O N G) But I totally get that need for validation! We all long for it. I don’t have the courage to ask, “Do you blame me?” because I know I am most likely to blame. But even when I am to blame and I have to start all over again, it starts with love. Even when I look in the mirror.