I could do a ten year series on things I suck at … but I’ll spare us all that! The thought occurred to me as I read in our study of Mark in Old Lady Bible Study about humility. We were studying Mark 9:33-37, just after Jesus tells the disciples that he will be killed and rise again, their next conversation behind his back is:. “Who do you think will be in charge once he’s gone?” Miss the point much? Jesus goes on to make several illustrations about priorities and how ours just don’t match up to his. So how do we bridge the gap? How do we metamorph ourselves to have the mind of Christ?

The commentary points out that

… the closer we draw to God, the more humble we become. The more we are overwhelmed by His holiness, the more we will be aware of our unholiness–a realization that produces humility.

Engaging God’s Word: Mark

This answers the question: How do I develop the traits I lack? I don’t develop them, they are produced. They are fruits that grow. If I want to grow fruit I have to first plant a tree. I have to care for that tree and provide the right conditions for the tree to produce fruit. But we live in a world where if we want fruit we just go to HEB and get it. We don’t even have to wait for much of the fruit we eat to be in season. We have the means and the opportunity to just reach out and get whatever we crave.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:15-18

My friend Reed says the fruits come in order, they grow from each other. So I can’t decide I want to work on kindness and just skip love, joy, peace and patience. I don’t get to pick the fruits in my life as conveniently as I go to HEB. I can work to grow closer to God and in doing so the spirit will display those fruits in my life. As I focus on his holiness he works to form me into his likeness. I have to keep studying, keep seeking, keep obeying and trust that will be reflected in my life–not some crazy concoction I tried to staple together but fruits that can only be orchestrated by the one who created me, in his image.

The Fruit of the Spirit

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.

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.

Sometimes you have to choose to be right or have a relationship.

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.