Kickin’ and Screamin’

Galatians 5:22-23 (amplified)
But the fruit of the {Holy} Spirit {the work which His presence within accomplishes} is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law {that can bring a charge}.

Philippians 1:12 (the message)
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered.

One sentence, in particular, struck me this morning as I read my Jesus Calling devotion:  Instead of seeking perfection in this fallen world, pour your energy into seeking Me:  the Perfect One.

Do you ever find yourself kickin’ and screamin’ on the inside?  Maybe you rail internally because you can’t seem to change things about yourself you believe should have been “fixed” a long time ago.  Maybe you near internal combustion because the pressure of your circumstance seems too much for you to handle.  Maybe you experience heart-fatigue because you want so much to be “better” and grow weary from the effort.  You know.  A better wife, husband, mom or dad.  A better son or daughter or friend.  And oh yes, the big one.  A better Christian.  Perhaps your better is in the form of a house, car, paycheck, position, neighborhood or health.  Better circumstances.  An easier time.  Less struggle.

Two thoughts for me today.  First, check out Paul’s  report in the verse above to the Philippians as he wrote to them from jail.  He tells them his imprisonment has the opposite of its intended effect.  Surely the intended effect was to silence him and shut down the spreading of the gospel.  But Paul says the message is in fact prospering.  Okay, so this is the major writer of the New Testament…he is supposed to be über spiritual, right?  But doesn’t God speak to us, on purpose, through His Word?  Doesn’t He love and care for us the same as Paul?  What made the message prosper inside the difficult circumstance?  Did Paul pull himself up by the old bootstraps and apply will-power?  Did Paul just work really, really hard at being stronger and better at handling his circumstance?  Why didn’t he grow resentful and doubtful of this Jesus he met on the Damascus Road?  I mean if Jesus loved Paul how did he end up in a jail cell?

Perhaps we won’t say those things out loud, but don’t we think them sometimes?  Somehow we feel God has forgotten us or has turned out to be a fraud when life gets really hard.  We kick.  We scream.  And I think God is so big and kind and loving that He, like a good parent, waits us out.  No doubt circumstances can be difficult.  No doubt we become exasperated with attempting to be better and have better.  Why does He allow it?

I won’t begin to pretend I have all the answers.  All I can do is share my journey.  And what I believe is that those lofty fruit qualities listed in the Galatians scripture above do not grow rich and sweet in our lives without the rains of adversity.  They do not grow deep roots except in the soil of need.  Your ease of living quotient is not, hear me, is not an indicator of the love God has for you.  It is not an indicator of your spiritual depth.  Look at Paul.  He was imprisoned and eventually killed!  And yet his life was a farmer’s market display of these Galatians chapter 5 fruits.

As I sat  in my kitchen this morning thinking about how I would like to better this way or that, pondering areas of much-needed improvement with a heart hungry for God’s peace, I remembered something I learned first-hand a couple of years ago.  I can’t conjure up the better.  I can’t work had enough or long enough to bring about the changes I would like to see.  And I have a choice while simmering in the hot oils of life:  I can kick and scream on the inside or I can surrender.  I don’t mean give up!  I mean surrender attaining the “better” in myself and for myself by myself.  Remember the quote from my devotional?  Pour your energy into seeking Me, the Perfect One.  See, the fruit of the Holy Spirit does not grow from my hard work or striving or good intentions.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit, this love and joy and peace and patience, increases in my life as His Spirit increases in my life.  It’s not the fruit of Vanessa’s attempts or wishing.  It’s the fruit of Him…Jesus.  Really, what a relief.  So, when I sit down at my table, heart and mind full of neediness and want, I don’t have to rehash and rehearse it all.  I can pour my precious energy into asking God to open my eyes and ears and heart to see Him, know Him and recognize Him more.  I can ask Him to empty me of me and fill me with Himself.  The verse above says the fruit of the Spirit, more than better — His best!, is the work accomplished by His presence within!  We don’t need to conjure up the next best idea for having better or being better or short-circuiting our difficulties so we can have joy or peace or love or patience.  Easy circumstances don’t produce this fruit.  Mostly, easy circumstances produce spoiled spiritual babies.  Whoa.  Ouch.  I know.

We can have what Paul had in our lives and thank God, chances are we won’t flesh it out in a jail cell (however if we do all the more powerful!).  Paul was seeking the Perfect One, not a perfect life.  Paul was after knowing Jesus.  Paul was full of the Spirit of God and so the fruit of His Spirit overflowed in Paul’s life.  It didn’t matter, as you find when you read Philippians, what his circumstance was.  It didn’t matter what Paul’s shortcomings or accolades were.  It wasn’t about Paul anymore.  And it’s not about me.  Or you.

God will let us kick and scream until we wear ourselves out.  And then, when we are finally spent and invite Him, God will come and fill us.  His fruit will begin to grow right there in the middle of our need.  And somehow it won’t matter as much what changes around us because of the change within us.

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