I have a list of the Fruits of the Spirit taped right in front of my eyes on my computer monitor at work. The fruits have always spoken to my soul in a extra special way. Not sure when or why, but through the years they have become my unstated unspoken private goals. I literally read through them silently in my head several times a day. The problem is that my garden of “fruits” is often choked out by my “if only” weeds.
If only people were more lovable, I would love more. If only I could lose weight, I would be more joyful. If only I was rich and didn’t have to work, I would be more kind. If only I had more time to bake, I would perform more acts of goodness. If only I had gotten more sleep last night, I would be more patient. If only I didn’t have cranky customers all day, I would be more gentle. If only I wasn’t so thorny…if only. I so deeply and truly want to be sweet and juicy instead of sharp and poisonous. But too often I lose that battle and use hurtful words and tones. Too often I don’t come across as filling and tasty. Too often my fruits are still small and bitter.
I think the reason these verses speak to me so personally is that I am, in my heart, still a farmers daughter. I understand the process. I have planted the fragile seed, digging deep in fertile soil to protect in from the storms, I have watered and weeded the area, plucking the weeds one at a time. I have nurtured that tiny sprout before it was strong, counting the leaves, delighting over the measured growth. I have tied stakes as the plant got too big for its britches. Reminding it that it needed support every inch of the way. It isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s hot and sweaty in the garden. There are days the effort doesn’t seem worth the result. But just as I want to give up, there comes a glimmer of what that plant is capable of…
Finally one day, I walk out to my sturdy little plant- the tiny sprout I have poured so much time and effort into, it happens. The thick vines have grown strong and green. Healthy and ready for what’s coming next. And finally, finally… I see tiny, fragile, beautiful blooms.
And in my mind I know what follows. Each of those blooms represent hope. Hope that after all my hard work, my day by day nurturing and pruning, sweet wonderful fruits are on the way.
Do you see the picture as I do? Do you imagine God planting me and protecting me, watering and pruning me, plucking my weeds, measuring my daily growth. I see it. I get it. I am a farmers daughter, but more importantly, I am the daughter of the Master Gardener.
He designed and planted the lush tropical forests, the beautiful vineyards and the endless Kansas prairies. He grows the coconuts on the beach and fertilizes the lush greenhouses that fill my local flower shop. He shaped grapes and bananas. Put the juice in every tomato. He put the seeds in the watermelons. And using it all, He somehow supplies the oxygen I need to live.
He is the Master Gardener. I think he can handle my fruits!
My garden is not as bountiful yet as I would like. God works in it faithfully every day. Sometimes the pruning hurts. Sometimes I feel I am drowning in the watering. Sometimes I feel muddy or choked by weeds. My soil doesn’t feel fertile. Sometimes I just want to lay down flat in the dirt to wither and die, and the season of sweet fruit seems very far away.
But God planted me for a reason, He knows my every leaf and stem. He watches me daily, feeds me the vitamins and nutrients I need. Fights off my bugs and insects.
And just when I think I am standing tall and strong and proud, He looks ahead and sees the storms coming that could destroy me. The strong winds that could steal my chances for success, the rains that could drown me. And He comes along beside me and “stakes” me. Tying Himself to me securely. Holding me up even though I don’t even know I need it. Even though I think I can stand strong alone. He knows better than me. He planted me. He’s my Gardener.
I am happy to say that there are days I have blooms. A lifetime of pruning and work by God has pointed me in the direction I need to be growing.
The “if only’s” try to stunt my growth, wither my vines, steal my sunshine…but they don’t know who they are dealing with. God doesn’t allow the “if onlys” to stay in His garden. He weeds them out with skill and practice. I am in the Hands of a Master. Some day my fruits will be sweet and plentiful. He is measuring me and watering me every day! And I praise Him for it!