Fruit is not automatic. You don’t plant a tree and “get fruit.”
You have to root your tree in good soil. Depending on what fruit you hope to grow, the very geographic location of your garden or orchard can be crucial.
There is watering and other care involved. You have to protect your trees from insects and animals and, sometimes, thieves. You have to protect it from the cold.
I don’t have a green thumb. I am not outdoorsy.
I worked church maintenance for about five years. The grass grows quickly in South Texas. What you cut on Monday needs cutting again on Thursday. So in the warm months (which in Houston is most of them), that’s five days a week for five years of mowing and otherwise tending to acres and acres of land in the sweltering Houston heat. I made a meager living off of the curse.
Now I dread mowing my almost-an-acre every weekend in the somewhat less hot Tennessee summer. No one’s paying me to do it, but it’s not someone else’s land. It’s mine. I own it.
It’s almost as if I didn’t learn anything in my years of professional earth subduing.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. -- Galatians 5.22-23
I am not inclined toward prayer. I talk to God constantly, actually, but I am not “prayerfully minded,” by which I mean I am terrible at committing to times of quiet and meditative prayer.
The fruit of the Spirit is not automatic. I can’t just think about God and superficially read my Bible every day and “get fruit.”
I have to root my spirit in His, in the nurturing soil of the Word incarnate and the Word written. I have to put myself in locations conducive to spiritual nourishment – family, church community, a quiet corner in which to really pray and study.
In his novel The Fourth Treasure, Todd Shimoda describes the efforts of Japanese calligraphers to perfect their artistry. One sensei instructs his students to perform ten thousand strokes a day for ten thousand days. And then the student might be ready.
And the strokes are not the Japanese characters themselves, but the individual strokes – the “radicals” – that together make a character. That’s ten thousand times a day, for ten thousand days, of practicing the parts of a letter. Can you imagine having to practice drawing the three separate parts of an A for that long before you can attempt to draw the actual letter?
But there is a beauty and a spirit and an emotional substance to expertly rendered Japanese kanji not found in the cold geometry of our twenty-six-letter alphabet.
There is a difference between trying and training.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -- Galatians 6.9
The work of sanctification is God’s. But there is work to be done on my part, as well. The works of faithfulness.
Disciplines to undertake. Hard work. Consistency. Perseverance.
A long obedience in the same direction.
Discipline: Any activity I can do by direct effort that will help me do what I cannot now do by direct effort. -- John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted
The fruit of the Spirit is not automatic. There is work and care involved.
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -- John 15.4-5