Monday, December 01, 2008

Spiritual Citrus

You're holding an orange peel in your hand. Let me clarify: you're holding an orange peel in your right hand. In your left hand you have orange seeds, in front of you is a glass of orange juice (extremely pulpy) and a pile of those offwhite veiny things.

Your assignment: make an orange.

You've got everything it takes to make an orange, and yet you find yourself staring blankly at your two hands (or glaringly at me) and thinking to yourself, "yeah right."

Well if you can't make an orange, then where do oranges come from? Yes, yes, I know - they grow. I can't make an orange either, but I can till some ground, plant an orange seed, water it, prune it, dig up the weeds, and eventually I could have the orangiest orange tree this side of the Mississippi...and the Rockies, I suppose. That's not the point.

The point is: oranges aren't made, they grow.

It's a simple concept. So simple, in fact, that many people have started skimming through these sentences looking for me to get to my point. My point is exactly that: it's simple...but we miss it every single day of our lives. Let me explain.

When I was in college I felt convicted by Galatians 5. You've read it, "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." You didn't have to look hard at my life (or at my interactions with my roommates) to see that I needed some fruit on my tree. I decided to take one "fruit" a week and work on it, not moving on to the next until I had mastered it, at least for the most part.

It took longer than you'd think, but eventually I began to realize my plan wasn't working. I'd be working on kindness, but eventually I realized I couldn't be kind to my roommates because I had no patience for them, so I had to backtrack. Then patience didn't work without love. And so on. Eventually it hit me - you don't make fruit. Fruit has to grow.

Finally I looked at the context of the passage and my thoughts were confirmed. The fruit really wasn't my job at all. My job was to live, to walk, to keep in step with the Spirit and He would produce the fruit.

Scot McKnight says it this way:
"In general, we see something fundamentally important here as to how Paul depicts the Christian life. It is life in the Spirit, the life of a person who is surrendered to letting the Spirit have complete control. But we see here also that one does not gain this life by discipline or by mustering up the energy. One does not huddle with oneself in the morning, gather together his or her forces, and charge on the battlefield of life full of self-determined direction. Rather, the Christian life is a life of complete surrender to the Spirit."


Do you ever look at your life and say, "Where's all the love?" or "Who stole my joy?!" or (let's be real for a second) "Why did I just talk to him like that?" Do you ever look at yourself and say, "Why are my branches so daggum light?"

The weird thing is the fruit isn't your responsibility, but if it's not growing in your life, it's your fault.

We are responsible for the soil. We're responsible for planting ourselves by streams of water, and for digging our roots deep, and for keeping the weeds in check, and for reading His Word, and for prayer, and for fellowship, and for keeping in step with the Spirit. We are responsible for the environment, He is responsible for the life.

The best part is, when we're doing our part, it's spring all year 'round!

I can't make an orange, but I know what it takes to grow one. And with diligent care and the Lifejuice of the Spirit, my life will be the tree where people get their cool refreshment, their tangy nourishment, their sweet delight.

Will you join me in this celestial orchard?

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought,
and never fails to bear fruit.
~Jeremiah 17:7-8