Monday, April 25, 2016

For the Pickin'

Let me ask you something: when was the last time you grew your own fruit?

It's a fair question, particularly in the day of mega-chain supermarkets and small-town farmers' markets. But that's not the kind of fruit I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the fruit of the Spirit.

It's one of the most famous passages in the New Testament, this little snippet from Galatians. Paul says plainly what kind of fruit the Spirit ought to be producing in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All good things, yes? All things we desire to have, right? All things we try to pick off the Spirit's tree.

And therein lies the problem.

Most of us think about these fruit of the Spirit like the Holy Spirit is just growing these things in an orchard somewhere. Like all we have to do is walk through and pick a piece of patience when we need it. All we have to do is wander around until we find a ripe, juicy, glorious piece of love. In a pinch, perhaps we pray for God to grow quickly a bit of self-control, for we need it right now, and it's nowhere to be found in this orchard of the Spirit. The self-control trees never seem to be in bloom.

Or quite to our taste.

I think this is how many of us have come to view these fruits of the Spirit, as though the Holy Spirit is just producing all of these things for us to take hold of when we need them in our lives. When we're hungry for them. When they would be just the right piece of fruit to offer our guests (or, occasionally, ourselves). In times of famine, or even hunger, we go off searching for the Spirit's orchard, looking for this so-called fruit we've heard so much about.

If you find it in short supply at your moment of greatest need, here's the hard truth: it's because you're not growing it.

When Paul says that these are the fruit of the Spirit, he says equally clearly that these are the fruit that the Spirit produces in you. He's not growing these things randomly in some super-secret sacred orchard somewhere, hoping that you'll wander in when you are in need and find just what you're looking for. He's not stocking up on a harvest of all these good and wonderful things, ready to offer them for you and your local farmers' market because that's the best place to find you on a Saturday morning. No, He's producing these things right within you. In the very heart of you.

The Spirit is either growing this fruit in you or He's not growing it at all. Period. You will not find your love, your joy, your peace, your patience, your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness, your gentleness, or your self-control in any other orchard. It's in yours or it doesn't exist.

Jesus says, "I am the vine and you are the branch." You've got the whole root system you need to start growing stuff. You've got a supply line to the streams of living water that nourish your tree. You've got a steady trunk from which to grow. You've got the DNA of the fruit of the Spirit coursing through your veins. All you have to do make sure all that stuff flows freely through you so that it gets to the places it needs to get to to grow the fruit that God has promised to grow in you. 

It's a tough concept. It is. It's far more tempting to go out in search of patience than to wait for patience to just develop out of your own meager spirit (even your own Spirit, the presence of the very Spirit of God within you). It takes forever it seems, precisely at a moment when you don't feel like you have forever. But no fruit tastes as sweet as the fruit you grow yourself, and there is no substitute for the goods that come from your own garden.

Even if you could bum some off a neighbor, even if you could buy some at the market, even if you could wander through some generic, public orchard of the Holy Spirit, there would always be something unsatisfying about the harvest. There would always be something about it that just doesn't work for you. The patience you find there doesn't have your DNA in it; it's not your patience. The love you find there may be love, but it's not your love. It's not your joy. It's not your peace. It's the easy way out, and you feel it.

So stop browsing in another orchard, even if you think it's the orchard of the Holy Spirit Himself. Because that's just not where the fruit is found. 

The fruit is found in you or it's nowhere at all. 

Stop browsing; start growing. For you have need of the harvest at the strangest of all times; make sure there's plenty for pickin' when the time comes. 

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