By Cindy Koch –
It is a happy day when I taste a California Strawberry. For years, even while living in southeast Georgia, I could make a trip to buy some fresh produce and find the little plastic packages with sunny smiles on the sticker only to discover a little taste of home had followed me all the way across the county. On the corner of the package, in that southern grocery store 1500 miles down the road, I saw the words “grown in Saticoy, CA”. For years I loved those strawberries, sweet and red, grown in my home state, sold on the East Coast.
One day, several years later, after more children and a move back to California, I happened to pick up one of my beloved strawberries again. It was the same familiar packaging, but something had totally changed. The flavor burst in my mouth like nothing I could remember. Juicy and syrupy, dribbling bright red intensely flavored strawberry juice down my unsuspecting lips. It was so good. And I realized something. California strawberries taste infinitely better in California.
You know, that pretty much ruined my life, or at least my general love for strawberries. Unless I could experience that perfect balance of tart and sweet, that incredible crunch into a soft fleshy fruit, that satisfying gush of strawberry paradise, it just wasn’t worth the bite. I would surely be disappointed.
And I wonder, if we are all just a little bit jaded about our favorite fruits. But I’m not talking strawberries, cherries, or apples. Rather the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23) In part, we’ve had some incredible opportunities to taste these fruits in our own lives. Maybe it was a merciful and loving friend, or an eternally joyful brother in the middle of hard circumstances. Perhaps we’ve tasted a slice of patience, kindness, or goodness in our turbulent world. Maybe we caught just a glimpse of a faithful hero, a gentle mother, or a champion in self-control. We know this fruit is special, we know it’s a gift given by God. But it’s not always as sweet as we expect, and maybe not as readily available as we would like.
Looking at my own life, and my own fruit, does it really measure up to the great expectations of the fruit of the spirit? I begin to see myself working against the spirit, my hands and heart condemning me, my thoughts and past trapping me in sin. Every time I look for my “fruit” it comes back more sour and tasteless than the last. Striving, failing, doubting if I ever had the fruit to begin with.
Looking at the others who supposedly have fruit, is quite disappointing. Finding fruit producers becomes a full-time job. Some look good for awhile, but too often take the fruit for granted. It may become a game of who has better fruit, tossing the rotten aside, requiring accountability for the early bloomers. Judging one fruit over another, checking off the list of what makes a quality fruit, establishing a standard for good and bad fruit to evaluate our faithfulness to God Almighty. Guilting others into obtaining more fruit, focusing intently on our own walk so that we possess the right kind of fruit. In our own lives and in the lives of others, we try to go shopping for the Fruits of the Spirit.
And there is the flaw with our whole understanding. We don’t have control over our fruit. We can’t shop around for the best tasting fruit. Fruit of the Spirit is the product of hearing the Word.
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits. (Mat 7:17-20)
The question becomes, am I a healthy tree? Fruit is not the issue. A healthy tree listens to and cherishes the Word of God. A healthy tree has faith in a God who has acted. A healthy tree is buried with Christ and risen to new life. A healthy tree is a poor miserable sinner who stands forgiven. A healthy tree is not concerned with it’s fruit at all.
So shopping for fruits of the Spirit becomes nonsensical. “Faith comes by hearing”, Faith is not a reward for the quality or quantity of your fruit. God has made you into a good tree. You will bear good fruit, even if you don’t know you are doing it.