Devotional 3/25/2020- Fruit of the Spirit 1

For the next few devotions that I write I am going to focus on the fruits of the Spirit as named in Galations 5:22. This scripture has always had a special part in my life, mostly because we learned a song about it in children's choir, Junior Choir as it was called in my church, when I was young that I really liked.  In fact, I still sing it to myself.  And if you ever put me on the spot and ask a favorite scripture I will cite this scripture.  In part because it is one of my favorites but also in part because children's choir ingrained the verse so into me that I can always remember it. 

As a child I was forced to be in Junior Choir.  My aunt was the director and there was no question on whether or not you would be in choir.  So every Saturday morning from 1st-6th grade my parents took me to choir.  

I had a love-hate relationship with choir.  I loved the annual Christmas play and the acting that I got to do.  Memorizing lines is oddly enjoyable to me.   I also loved what we called the "Train Song."  If my memory serves correctly, we sang once a month and generally sang 5 songs.  We sang an opening, three short anthems, and a closing.  Typically one of the three anthems was the "Train Song."  And this song just brings me joy. I have already taught it to Belle.  

Yet, I also kind of hated choir.  This is for a simple reason.  I am not a good singer.  I have six cousins and two brothers on this side of my family and they are all better singers than I am.  This is not some kind of false modesty either.  They are all better than me.  And I knew this from a young age.  My aunt never called me out or anything.  In fact, she was very nurturing and extremely patient with me.  But I knew that I was not as good and it embarrassed me thoroughly. 

I even went so far as to write my aunt a note in second grade without telling my mother to ask her not to ask me to sing by myself or sit by the piano to hear the notes better because I felt like a fool (fool was my insult of choice in second grade).  

I will be honest here.  I was not a pleasant child when I did not want to do something especially if I felt dumb doing it.  I was great at sulking, pouting, quietly or not so quietly being non-compliant.  All those things that are not quite bad enough for you to punish me but certainly to be annoying as all get out.  

Yet my aunt was so patient with me and with all of us.  She helped countless children to memorize songs that taught us about God, who God was and helped us to praise God.  I am not saying she never got a little annoyed with us.  But she was an affirming, dedicated, and above all patient director. 

Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit.  It is one I wish was not there.  Patience is not always my strong suit.  It's one that I some times question if it is really that important.  Yet I know it is and in part I know that because of my aunt.  Through her patience, she taught me important lessons about God and gave me songs that I still sing to this day.  My aunt's patience with me all those years made me a better Christian and person.  But it is even more important than that, she lived out patience so that others could learn about God. 

She reflected for me and others God's light that is so patient with us when we are slow to learn lessons, when we would rather be somewhere else and act accordingly, or even when we stubbornly refuse the benefit in something.  

I am sure there were Saturdays that my aunt had a hard time liking me.  But every Saturday she came back.  She stuck with it.  She was patient and persistent.  And she changed my life.  I recall another verse on patience, "I (Paul) beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:1-2)   

Patience helps us to live out our callings from God and also helps us to display for others God's patience with us.  Patience is not about being passive.  It is actually very active.  Patience is one of the fruits that help all the other fruits grow better.  It helps us to reach people to show God's love and desire for relationship with them.  It also helps us to deeply touch the lives of people that will bear fruit in them even though it might take decades to do so (Junior choir bears fruit in me to this day!).  

We too often look for quick fixes today.  Not just in our every day life but in our religious lives.  We want our prayers answered now (and the way we want them to be).  We want people to come to church today and respond the first time we ask them whether that is to attend church, serve on a committee, or anything else.  We want a better connection with God and to know God's plan right now.  

But this is not how it works.  Patience is required.  It is required in us as we seek deeper relationships and to grow into better disciples.   It is required to reach others who need to know we will invite them not just once- not in an aggressive way but a loving one.  It is required in us as we seek a better world and solutions to today's problems.  And we know that God is so patient with us and all the sins and slips we have.  

Right now impatience is abounding.  We are impatient to resume our normal lives.  We are impatient for COVID-19 to be a memory.  We are impatient for stores to be perfectly stocked with what I want when I want it.  But the choice is simple; to practice patience or to endanger ourselves and others.  

But instead of acting like younger Beth with sulking and pouting, what if we used this time of required patience to our benefit?  Our lives are being forced to slow down a little.  So let's use that to focus on God and deepening our relationship.  So that when this is over, and it will be over, that we can think of it as a time not when we were forced to be patient and idle but as a time when we purposely spent more time with God and patiently learned anew lessons of God and God's will and way.  

Today I invite you to read Galatians.  Read it looking for where God is speaking to you.  Read it to hear what Paul is saying to his first audience and us today.  Note verses that touch your heart or that trouble you and spend some time exploring why you think that is.  You can email me if you have something you want to discuss.  But patiently read the scripture and study it.  Do not breeze through and mark a thing off your to do list.  Patiently read for lessons and follow where the Spirit leads you.  Then spend time in prayer.  Set a timer and try for 15 minutes in prayer.  15 minutes is much longer than we often pray but taking a larger chunk of time will help you to be patient in prayer and to listen, not just talk.  Pray for your joys and concerns and pray also that you may use this time of patience to grow and bear fruit.  

Love and Peace,