Growing up in an evangelical, protestant culture for most of my spiritual development has lead me to believe that the fruits of the spirit are:
a.) a catchy song by which we understand that spiritual fruits are not produced in a natural or organic form such as that of a coconut
b.) they are the by product of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believe according to Galatians 5:22
Both statements are true. The Fruits of the Spirit, by its very title, implies that this is the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life, wherein the presence of such fruit is directly proportional to the intimacy between the believer and their relationship with Christ. Fair enough. But what if we took it a step further asking the question of what would happen if we applied the Fruits of the Spirit to our marriage? To other relationships?
What would happen if we applied the Fruits of the Spirit to our marriage? To other relationships?
It’s a painful dose of reality about the depravity of our relationships and a testament to the amount of energy pour into pleasing ourselves over our spouses. At least that is true for me.
This one was easy for me after 13+ years of marriage. I without a doubt love my wife. Would willing place myself in harm’s way without a second’s thought if it meant protecting her. This is a natural by-product of working through a relationship with someone.
So easily mistaken for happiness. The difference lies in the source of the emotion. Happiness is rooted a single, temporary, fading moment, while joy is rooted in an external relationship or idea that is lasting. Happiness is receiving $500 unexpectedly. Joy is in the contentment of provision.
The same is true of marriage. We have to learn to move beyond seeking those things our spouses do that make us happy. My wife upsets me when she doesn’t meet my expectations and vice-versa. So if that is what I am counting on — if that is where I get my validation — then our marriage is entangled in constant disappointment. Rather, we should seek the joy of having a history with someone, a relationship to build on, and the excitement of working through an uncharted future together.
Ouch. Being transparent here. More often than not, I seek “being right” over peace. The fires of dispute are quickly extinguished by the willingness of one participant to lay down their defenses for the sake of moving on in the relationship.
Practical, real life example. My wife asked me to sweep. I swept. I missed the crumbs under bench. My wife comes in, sees the crumbs and claims I didn’t sweep. I could:
a.) argue that I did in fact sweep and if she has a problem with it, then clean it herself or
b.) humbly offer to sweep again.
More often than not, I choose answer “a” because I want to defend my position that it was a simple mistake. After all, I swept the rest of the room! How different would this outcome be if we simply went with answer “b”?
I am rather fickle when it comes to patience. As a trainer, it is in my blood to have a great deal of patience for my students are learning new concepts in the classroom. Yet, I can not muster the same amount of patience for my spouse when she doesn’t meet my expectations on how long a chore should take. One would suggest based upon this observation that I love & respect my students more than I do my own wife!
I don’t want that to be a reality in our relationship. One of the biggest eye-openers in my relationship & expectations of our marriage is when I came to grips with the reality that my wife is in fact a human. Just as flawed as me. Just as broken as me.
This and patience go hand in hand. If I am paying attention, I can tell when my wife is upset. This usually results in me premeditating what she will say and formulating a defense. Yet the outcome of the argument is so much different when I respond with kindness & patience. If you thought, “this is the person I love the most in all the world” before going to an argument, you would treat your spouse differently.
And the fruits go beyond arguments, which I tend to focus on because that is where they are so easily broken. We should continually look for ways to serve our spouses in kindness whether that takes the form of making them a glass of tea, offering to do their chores, checking to see if they are in need of anything, etc.
I grew fond of the concept behind Shana Tova last year. This is a phrase you will hear Jews speak to one another during their New Year celebrations of Rosh Hoshana. Instead of saying “Happy New Year”, they say “Good Year” to one another. There is a fundamental concept that you can not wish for a happy year when you do not have the capacity to know what events will take place. If happiness is a fleeting emotion and there is bound to be some tragedy, then a wish for a “happy new year” is a joke at best.
Rather, it is better to wish for a good year because all good and perfect gifts come from the Father. Likewise, our spouses are a good and perfect gift to us. Our marriage should always be rooted in a pursuit of God, wherein goodness prevails. In tragedy, we will be good to our spouses. In happiness, we will be good to our spouses. In boredom, we will be good to our spouses.
The secret is out of the bag and has been for a while now. I was addicted to pornography and enjoyed it even after we were married, as such I wasn’t very faithful to my wife. Christ said that if we lust after anyone other than our spouse, then we have committed adultery in our hearts.
There is a dangerous deception that flirting is not adultery. As humans, we are drawn to those who praise us & pay more attention to our attributes. Our spouses are not going to always give us the attention we crave, so it is well within the realms of possiblity that we could have an emotional affair. We should always be on guard with the relationships around us — even our online ones!
How quickly I am to forget to cherish my spouse when I am angry with her! Yet, it is that gentleness that will lay a foundation of trust & intimacy in a marriage.
And it works on men as well. When my wife gently approaches me, I perceive it as respect. Emmerson Eggerichs, best-selling author of Love and Respect, sampled 400 males asking them to chose between feeling alone and unloved or disrespected and inadequate. Unsurprisingly, 74% of the male participants indicated they would rather be unloved than disrespected.
Many of the mistakes of marriage and incidently my flawed perspectives of the other Fruits of the Spirits are derived from a lack of self-control. If I controlled my temper, I could be patient & gentle. If I controlled my tongue, I could be kind. If I controlled my expectations, I could be joyful. If I controlled my eyes, etc.
The challenge is to take these concepts and apply them to the relationships you have as a spouse, parent, sibling, worker & friend. If you were to grade yourself, do you think you would have a passing report card? If not, which one fruit could you work on over the next month to get a higher grade?