Several years ago I had these nine small magnets on my fridge. They looked something like that picture up there. Each little colored piece of cardstock named one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. I kept them stuck to the side of the fridge. Each time I walked through the kitchen, each time I opened the fridge to get out a jug of milk, each time I opened the freezer to store a bag of breastmilk, each time I raced into the kitchen to coax ThingThree down from whatever he had climbed on — every time, I saw the Fruit of the Spirit listed out, jumbled up, dancing down the side of my fridge. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
But then one day, some of my magnets were missing. It had been a crazy day. The children were all little – nine and under. We were trying to homeschool and pack our stuff up to move and finish home repair projects so we could put our house on the market and raise support to join a mission organization. And it had just been one of those days. Patience was gone. Tempers were short. Nerves were frazzled. As I pulled the hot dogs out of the freezer, I noticed that some of my magnets were gone.
“Who knows where the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit magnets are?” I called out.
My daughters came running. ThingOne quickly blurted that her little sister knew where they were. “Ask her!” She prompted.
Then with a quiet grin on her adorable little face, eight-year-old ThingTwo reached behind the calendar stuck to the side of the fridge and slid out Love, Patience, Kindness, Peace, Self-Control, Gentleness. Silently, she lined them up in a neat little row beneath the calendar.
“Ask her why she hid them!” ThingOne blurted.
“Ask her. Really! Ask her!” ThingOne would not let up.
I took the bait. “Why did you hide the magnets?” I was curious.
In a soft voice, ThingTwo explained. “Earlier today, when we were all acting so badly, I started taking away the magnets we weren’t showing. So I took away Love and Kindness because none of us were loving or being kind. And I just kept doing that. And so that’s why they were hidden.” She shrugged again.
OUCH! It was that obvious to an eight-year-old girl that my actions were not being controlled by the Spirit. I was demonstrating the Fruit of the Flesh – hatred, grouchiness, discord, impatience, selfishness, impurity, faithlessness, harshness, and free reign for my emotions. Why hadn’t I noticed it sooner? Or if I did, why hadn’t I felt as convicted as my little girl did?
That whole day (and so many times since), I chose to live in my own strength, my own control. And I can’t muster up the Fruit of the Spirit on my own. Left to myself, I won’t demonstrate Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. And I can’t work hard enough to produce this fruit in myself. No, this is the Fruit of the Spirit. Producing this fruit is God’s work. His work in me. Through me.
To see this Fruit in my heart, in my actions, in my words, in my life – requires abiding in the Spirit. Staying connected to God. I can’t try harder, do better, be better and make it happen. Oh, maybe I can for a minute or two. But even then, it’s pretty fake and very short-lived. No, to have REAL love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I need to be constantly connected to God’s Spirit within me.
And when I’m not abiding in and controlled by God’s Spirit, it’s obvious. Even to a small child.
Today, after my kids get home from school, I hope they don’t just see the Fruit of the Spirit listed on the side of the fridge. I hope they see it flowing from their momma.