If you’ve ever bitten into a strawberry that looked pristine and found it sour in your mouth. If you’ve ever peeled back a banana to expose a dark, mushy bruise. If you’ve ever inadvertently bitten into a muushy spot on an apple, then you know. You know the disappointment of bitter fruit. It is sorely frustrating to find fruit that is brown and mushy when you’re hungry for something fresh and nourishing.
Sometimes my fruit is not its best. Like the bruised banana my insides have been less than ideal. My answers have been too harsh, my temper too quick and my heart too hard around the edges.
This growing up thing is hard.
Every harsh answer to my children reveals that I have a lot to learn. But God so graciously takes me where I need to go, if I’m willing to let him lead me. Lately I’ve found myself camping out in the book of Philippians. I read there that I need to let my gentleness be evident to all. And isn’t it just like God to show us what we need to learn and then give us plenty of opportunities to practice it out? I have been practicing gentleness, and boy it has been hard.
Not too long ago I heard a dear friend share some things about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. That fruit is what comes out of a spirit led life, and it brings life and health to our own selves and those around us. She was listing the fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. No where does it say irritation. She even repeated it and said, “Last time I checked irritation was not a fruit of the spirit.” But how often do I live like it is? Too often that is what comes out of me, like that rotten banana that looked so healthy but inside was full of death. I don’t want to live my life like a rotten banana.
Gentleness defined is to be free from harshness, sternness or violence. It is moderation, fairness, mildness. It is also gentle, as in belonging to a family of high social station. What higher social station is there than that of a child of God, offspring of the King? If I am indeed a child of God then there is a higher standard required of me, one fitting to the daughter of royalty. A daughter of the king does not speak harshly, does not provoke others with her words, does not find herself quick to anger.
I have a ways to go.
Thankfully there is hope. We can learn to walk in gentleness. And the thing I love about God that is that he asks us to do things that are hard because he knows we need to be constantly reminded of our desperate need of him; that we can’t do this thing called life on our own and are always in need of a rescue. Our rescue is found sandwiched around the admonition to let my gentleness be evident to all.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4)
Rejoicing is my ticket to gentleness. Because if I am rejoicing in the Lord I am automatically focused on his goodness, his love, his grace. That shifts my perspective from my frustrations to the fact that he is always good. If he is always good then I can trust that he’s got my back when it comes to the frustrations of life, and if he’s got my back I don’t need to get my panties in a bunch about things. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to get my panties bunched about things that are really inconsequential. Like spilled milk and smudges on the fridge.
But I am told twice to rejoice. And because of that his gentleness can be displayed in me. Because it’s really not my gentleness that will be obvious to all but his spirit of gentleness in me. And that only comes through rejoicing in him. Rejoicing is nothing more than giving joy to, or gladdening my heart. To be glad and happy about God in me, to be satisfied and happy that he is, to be grateful of him in my life. If that is my focus then my responses will automatically be colored by light and life. And there's also the reminder that the Lord is near. He is not far off and inaccessible, so when rejoicing is tough I can call on his resources.
I don’t want to be a sourpuss, but so often that is the fruit I display. Rejoicing turns me from sour to sweet. I don’t know about you but I am so grateful for God’s grace to me in this area, he gives me a chance to try and try again to walk things out the way he wants me to. And his way is always better, always.
So I rejoice and I watch my edges soften a bit. I praise and I see my countenance relax. I pray and I relearn how to depend on God in me to produce the fruit he requires. I rejoice, I praise, I pray, and I repeat. All day long.
And for when I forget I made a little printable, to stick on the iPad and to print out and wallpaper the bathroom with-because I need that much reminding. Feel free to print it out and use it too.