I believe my misunderstanding was caused by a confusion with the secular phrase "fruits of our labor" which indicates tangible "fruits." Thus, I had been feeling lacking. I had little fruits to show for my daily labors. The folded clothes that are dirty again already, the washed dishes stacked by the sink again the very next day, the countless changed diapers tossed in the trash (or the laundry, adding to the chores). None of these were lasting.
I wasn't growing disciples, I wasn't feeding the poor. While I had a few efforts for the benefit of others, I felt my tangible fruits just weren't enough to be counted as worthy. My tree was ineffective at bearing good fruit.
What I was missing, though, was the Truth that the fruits which are to identify us with Christ are not physically visible - these fruits to which we refer are deeper than a simple act, or a series of actions, even.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)
I had heard, read, studied this verse innumerable amounts. So why had I never really understood?
Somehow I read these as a to-do list. I need to try to be more loving, more joyful, more patient. If I'm lacking, I need to pray that God will help me be more gentle. Not that the trying is wrong, but it's missing the point. I was focusing on the fruits and not on the Spirit which produces them.
The branches can't force the fruit, it comes from within - the roots dig deep, the tree bears up and the fruit is the natural result of what the tree is. The tree doesn't need to try to produce fruit, it just does, because that's what it was made to do.
When we are firmly planted in the Spirit, our efforts will not produce fruit, but, rather, these characteristics will be a natural result of who we are or, more specifically, who we are in Christ.
Did you ever notice this verse in context?
These words directly follow a list of not-to-dos, specific actions that are against the Spirit. So, why, then, are the fruits not equally specific actions? I think Paul was purposely trying not to give us a neat little checklist that would give us some sort of confidence in our own flesh as we hold our own actions up against the items he names and feel we're doing ok - we're doing everything just right.
But that's just the point of the fruits coming from the Spirit - we cannot create them in our own power. Again, only being fully planted in God allows these beautiful fruits of gentleness and self-control to blossom to maturity.
I mention all of the above because I have noticed, now that I have opened the dark corners of my heart, the ones I had left guarded, to the one God who created me and is not disappointed in the one who seeks after Him whole-heartedly, these fruits are truly developing in my life - I see more patience with my children, kindness toward my husband and gentleness in responding to others. And these have come from no effort of my own - they just are.
Clearly, I'm not perfect, but the fruits are definitely beginning to bud.
Thank you, God, for considering me worthy in Christ to continue to work to develop my spiritual maturity; I am humbled by Your love.
200. Confirmation that He Who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.
201. Hope in His deliverance.
202. Understanding His grace is sufficient.
203. A cradle resting in my room which has now rocked not only my babies but their father as well, and was built by the hands of his uncle and grandfather.
204. Clothes that were old to them but new to us.
205. A big boy releasing himself from his own blue jacket, unzipping it and all.
My Life: My Reflection
Mr. Joseph has started doing this as of late - it's pretty adorable (though be not deceived by the angle - while he's getting bigger every day, he wears the weight well and is not quite so chubby as this photo might indicate).