Mom bursts in the door, arms heavy with fruit. It was the sale at Duchie’s (our local Mennonite grocery), she explains between excited breaths. I start unpacking the cartons: a flush of bright-red raspberries, blueberries plump and fresh, straight from the farm.
Fruit is my favorite healthy afternoon snack. Packed with natural anti-oxidants, painted with the most exotic colors, and designed in most innovative ways (have you ever seen dragonfruit?!), I’m convinced that it is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.
I was in church the other day, and a thought popped into my head: “Why is it the fruits of the Spirit and not the vegetables of the Spirit?” OK, so I confess, my thoughts were wandering to a place the sermon wasn’t, but in my defense, research has shown that alpha brain waves produced when your brain is idling boost creativity. It’s true.
It was handy that I had my Bible opened in front of me, so I flipped to Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And as I sat there in the service, I started to get this revelation on fruits:
Flowers must die before fruits can grow
I love lists, so looking at a list like that inevitably makes me want to conquer the list point by point: “Tell me – how do I grow in the fruits of the Spirit? How can I be more loving, more joyful?”
This time, however, God responded by bringing me back to my grade seven science class, when we learned about the reproductive system of the flower. I saw the petals fall away, lifeless, but in place of it, a bud.
The question I needed to be asking instead was, “What parts of me need to die?”
This concept of death giving birth to life is pervasive in agriculture. Dead organic matter decomposes to fertilizer, giving life to plants. Perennial plants need to be pruned and deadheaded every season if they are flower in the next. Flowers must die before fruits can grow.
If we want to grow in gentleness, it first requires us to die to the part of us that needs to be right all the time. If we are to exercise self-control, we first give up satisfying our desires all the time.
Perhaps what we may even think are the most beautiful and glamorous parts of ourselves are the first ones that have to go – petal by petal.
2. The purpose of fruits is for consumption and reproduction.
I think fruits are the most selfless part of the plant. Think about it – their entire existence is so that we can eat them, and that more of its kind can be reproduced.
Back to the fruits of the Spirit. Why should we produce love? Why are we kind? They are not so that when we get to heaven, Jesus can check them off on checklist, like at a job interview. I believe their primary purpose is for other people to enjoy the fruits of our love and kindness, and then go on to replicate it in their lives. The fruits are consumed, then reproduced.
Bearing fruit looks like people getting blessed and disciples being made.
This doesn’t just apply to the fruits of the Spirit, but any kind of fruit we are aiming to produce in our life. While growing up, I spent countless hours plunked down on a hard piano bench, refusing to get up until a piece had reached a certain metronome speed. This investment produced the fruit of musicality in me. And every time I lead worship on the keyboard, people eat of that fruit. They may not see the hours I spent plunking away to a metronome ticking most obnoxiously, but my hope is that as they sink their teeth into the sweet presence of the Spirit, as they taste and see that He is good, they will reproduce the same atmosphere of worship in their bedroom, doors closed.
3. Good fruit is a product of a healthy plant.
Mom is growing plants in our garden – red peppers, chilis – we’re even attempting zucchini. Unfortunately, we have not had much success yet. The only yield I remember is one full grape tomato the entire season (which I savored to the best of my ability). But how she ensures she gets good fruit is by being diligent to give it enough water and sunlight.
You get good fruit by first having a healthy plant.
I think of Psalm 1:3:
And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
When we are like that tree, well-watered, planted where we are being filled, we will naturally yield good fruit. That was how God created it to work.
And what does having a healthy plant look like? It’s making space for the right priorities. We all know the right answers. It looks like laughter shared over a cup of coffee with a good friend, a morning run, a breath of fresh air, uninterrupted time to read a book, rest, really Sabbath. It looks like dialogue with God over interesting passages in the Word, a journal full of memories, dancing in the rain.
God wants us to have shalom, peace, wholeness. He wants us to do things that make us come alive – and He’s doing them with us. He delights when we are healthy, strong and firmly planted. And as we are filled, we will bear fruit as an overflow of the abundance of our hearts.
I squeeze the last pint of blackberries into our now very colorful and nutritious fridge. Stepping back satisfied with my work, my eyes scan the rows of red, blue and black: I am convinced – you are God’s greatest gift to mankind.