As a young Christian I sometimes focused more on what I was not supposed to do. Don't love the best seat in the synagogues. Don't load people with burdens and keep things easy for myself. Don't have orgies or get drunk. Those were easier for me, especially since I didn't frequent synagogues or crazy parties, but some have been much more difficult. Don't be jealous or envious or have fits of anger. I have tried not to do those things, too, but they've required more work, so much so that I'm still working on them.
As I have matured in my faith, I have shifted away from the rules of what I'm not supposed to do and found myself focusing on that which is far harder: the things I should be doing. God, Love, our Catholic Faith—they are not lists of "Thall Shall Not's." They are incredible affirmations of all that we know we want to be, telling us not only that we should but also that we can. We can be these things that are so attractive and holy but seem so far out of our reach—how refreshing to be told this!
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—we can do and be and have these glorious virtues. These Fruits of the Spirit can make up who we are at our very core. But how?
The Psalmist writes, "Blessed is the man who . . . delights in the law of the Lord . . . . He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season."
When we keep in step with the Spirit, meditating on God's law, His Word, day and night, then we are blessed. Our roots are deep and are constantly being fed, just like the tree planted by water in the Psalm. Then the Spirit who fills us, leads us, and has been sent by the Father and Son to be with us bears fruit within us. At the appropriate time, "in its season," we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, they are being cultivated within us.
Let us pray and work so that we never neglect the love of our God, Who has begun a good work within us and will see it to its completion.
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker and homemaker. She lives with her husband and five children in central Illinois. You can find out more about her here.