The Fruit of the Spirit – Living a Spirit-filled life
“But 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 (NIV)
Day 2: Remaining in Christ
“Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:4-5 (NIV)
How do we bear fruit? Before we look closer at each of the nine fruit of the Spirit, it is important to be clear about how this fruit is produced. It would be easy to look at the list and beat ourselves up for the qualities that we wish we had more of. But the fact is that we cannot make ourselves more patient by trying to be more patient; we can’t make ourselves more gentle by sheer willpower; I would even argue that self-control is a thing that’s ultimately beyond our control.
In John 15:4-5, Jesus uses the imagery of a vine and branches to explain to his followers what they must do to bear fruit: “Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Later in that chapter Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
So while it’s valuable to meditate on the fruit, our job is not to manifest that fruit on our own. Our job is simply to plug ourselves in to Christ, each day, to remain connected to the vine. When we are plugged into the source of our power and growth, our true nature as fruit-bearers will emerge, and the fruit of the Spirit will grow out of us naturally.
But how do we remain in Jesus? For years I had an (almost) daily routine of reading the Bible and praying. I would spend these moments either in the evening or the morning, eagerly reading my Bible and devotionals (like this one!), then praying or writing in my journal, lifting my own prayer requests to God and praying for my friends and family. This daily “quiet time” is taught by many churches and Christian organizations, and is a great way to stay connected to God. But for me, and for many others, there comes a time when that connection feels broken. Some call this the Dark Night of the Soul. For me it coincided with a time of depression and other health problems, and difficulties making myself fit into the Christian organization I was working for.
I would still try to read the Bible and pray, but the words of scripture, which used to be so nourishing, seemed to have turned to sand in my mouth. After a long time of struggling, I discovered other types of prayer that worked better for me at that time. Among these were centering prayer, contemplative prayer, and Lectio Divina. These prayers involved less reading and active prayer, and more spending quiet time in God’s presence. They helped me to calm my anxious thoughts by accepting them and letting them pass overhead like clouds. You can find more information about these types of prayers at https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/
For some of us struggling with depression or anxiety, or doubts about our faith, or just the daily stressors that make spending quality, quiet time with God seem impossible, remaining in Jesus may be as simple as taking a moment here and there to close our eyes and take a deep breath. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote that the wall between himself and God was very thin. “Why couldn’t a cry from one of us break it down? It would crumble easily.” If a half hour of prayer and meditation seems undoable, even one word sent through the thin wall will be enough. And if we can’t think of even one word to say (Anne Lamott suggests, “help,” “thanks,” or “wow,”), then a deep breath and an inner turning towards God will work.
Take a few moments to take a deep breath and say a one word prayer like, “help,” “hello,” “Jesus,” or, “peace.” Imagine God is sitting next to you on your couch, in the coffee shop, or wherever you are. Imagine yourself turning to meet her eyes. Imagine yourself reaching out your hand and touching his fingertips with yours.
About The Author
Jessica Kantrowitz spent many years in seminary, earning an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and in various ministries to both Americans and international students. When a health crisis coincided with a faith-shift she left her job in an Evangelical parachurch organization and rediscovered her joy in writing. Her work has been published on Think Christian and The Good Men Project and shared widely throughout social media, in particular her essays, Bake for them two and Things I've been wrong about for most of my life, part one. She lives in Boston where she also works as a nanny and an academic editor. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.