I used to have such a wrong idea about the Fruit of the Spirit. I’d read the verses in Galatians like a laundry list of so many things I couldn’t do enough, be enough. I would either flip to another book of the Bible, or vow to work on being more loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, etc. But the next day, I wouldn’t even be able to list all nine.
This post is the ninth in a series on walking with God instead of pursuing idolatry. You’ll find the previous one here.
Learning to walk by the Spirit isn’t without its stumbles.
When I started this series, I commented to a friend, “I can already tell I’m going to be seriously tested.” Little did I know, God planned to show me so much more than I wanted to know about my own tendency (or lack thereof) to keep in step.
Recently I wrote a post about Bill Cosby’s intent to teach young men to avoid sexual assault charges. One of my friends took issue with the fact that I assumed Cosby was guilty of said assault, and we engaged in a civil conversation on my Facebook page.
That is, until I got ugly. After launching into a condescending lecture about all the ways he was wrong, I suggested that his stance could endanger his professional reputation. (Ouch!)
It’s possible to be 100% right (at least in your mind), and 100% wrong in your approach. I had forgotten that being a friend is far better than being right.
All day long, I justified my response with how wrong my friend was, how people need to be educated about rape culture, and how important it is for assaulted women to be heard and believed.
But I was listening to me. Not the Holy Spirit.
Waking next morning, my first thought wasn’t my own. It was the Spirit speaking to me. “You need to apologize.”
He was right, of course. I wanted to take every condescending and unkind word back. It was tempting to erase it and pretend I hadn’t even posted. But words are like toothpaste squirted out of the tube—there’s no taking them back once they’re said.
As soon as I could, I logged on to write an apology to my friend who’d gone silent. Immediately, he wrote a gracious response and offered instant forgiveness. It was more kindness than I deserved.
Reflecting, I thought about all the ways I could have handled it, had I leaned into the Spirit and trusted Him to help me. Ways that would have made a convincing case, rather than shut down the conversation. I hadn’t exhibited self-control.
In English, self-control and Spirit-control seems to be an oxymoron. But in the Greek, it makes perfect sense.
Helps Word Studies explains Egkrateia as something “proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself,” or “true mastery from within.”
It reminds me of my training in the Air Force, where we learned to march in formation. At first, we were 100 individuals from all walks of life, wearing every color of the rainbow. We made the Training Instructor dizzy with all our different gaits. “You’re making me seasick!” he’d yell.
By the end of training, columns and rows of 100 people moved arms and legs at precisely the same time, as one solid unit. Heels struck asphalt and arms swung in perfect rhythm as we forgot our individual selves and merged our wills together.
The day I responded so harshly to my friend, I was definitely out of step with the Holy Spirit. I had turned from my trust in Him and trusted in my own ability to communicate and persuade. Pride, ego, self-aggrandizement—whatever you want to call it—I had stopped walking with Him and veered out on my own.
Thankfully, we have a God who readily accepts us right back into formation if we’re faithful to confess our missteps (1 John 1:9).
And if we’re still walking? That means we’re moving forward and producing more fruit, just like Paul exhorts us to do.
I hope you’ve been blessed and encouraged as we’ve explored what it means to walk with the Holy Spirit. Thanks for coming along on the journey, friend!
Want to read the rest of the posts in the Fruit of the Spirit series?