Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.
These are qualities we want, at least, many people want. But as I hear people talk about these characteristics, I think we often look at the fruit of the Spirit as ideals or goals without realizing they are within us. These aren’t something we attain. These are Spirit-given characteristics. Yet instead of acknowledging these are God-gifted, we make it about us and our behavior. We approach these qualities as something we can receive if we give up enough room in our lives. And yes, we do the yielding. Our humility makes space. But what we receive isn’t driven or measured by us. It’s not, “Boy, I need more patience, so I need to yield more of myself. I’ll sacrifice some things today, some space within myself, so God has more room to give me.” That’s not to say we shouldn’t yield and posture ourselves to receive and grow, but God always has room to provide and to work within us. To say he will only respond in reaction to us limits him too much and gives us too much control.
The space we invite him into matters but so does our motivation of that space. God knows. Sometimes we just can’t muster the strength. We don’t know what to do. But God knows, and he provides in space we don’t know we have or don’t know how to give. Other times, we make space for the wrong reasons. We impatiently or passively wait. We try to demand or manipulate. We try for results. We want our timing. God waits.
It’s not this clear cut. God gives abundantly when we least expect it. He gives and we don’t notice or accept it. He refrains when we’re doing everything we know what to do. And it’s not because he’s unpredictable or unreliable. It is because he knows. He is kind. He is trustworthy and able. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t as much about our attainment as our relationship. It’s the process much more than the end result. It’s a constant yielding regardless of where we are and what we want. It’s the acknowledgement that God is great, good, and beyond enough.