Fruits of the Spirit & Foster Care
When I was growing up, my parents had apple trees in our backyard. They were beautiful trees, great for climbing & enjoying the shade. But at certain times of the year, they were so much work. I didn’t love those trees as much during the harvest time. Those months when we would spend hours climbing ladders, picking apples, gathering them into baskets, washing them, and processing them, were not my favorite. We had those apple peelers that would attach to the table making it faster to peel & core the apples. But after some time turning and turning and turning that handle, your arm would feel like it was about to fall off. And then we would spend hours cutting them, bagging them, and freezing them to use throughout the year. We would enjoy the fruit of our labor in all the pies, cobblers, and apple butter that my mom would make throughout the year, but the work of getting to those yummy treats was not particularly enjoyable.
Fruit takes time to grow. Fruit takes patience. Fruit requires intentional care. It has to be planted and watered and cared for to prevent weeds and bugs from destroying it and eating it. Trees have to be pruned and tended to in the resting season in order for them to produce fruit in the harvesting season. If you want to produce fruit that can be eaten, you have to be a careful, watchful gardener and pay attention to what needs to be done to make the fruit grow and prosper. Otherwise, you end up with ruined, useless fruit and trees that are not fulfilling their purpose of providing fruit.
I love how Paul uses the word fruit in Galatians 5 to refer to the characteristics that should be evident in our lives when the presence of God dwells in us. Just like physical fruit, this spiritual “fruit” takes time and careful attention to grow. You wouldn’t plant an apple seed in the ground & expect a blossoming, fruit producing tree when you wake the next day. The same is true of the fruit of the Spirit. We can’t say “yes” to God and immediately begin to show visible signs of these fruits in our lives. It takes time with the Spirit. It takes intentionality. It takes testing and trials in life to refine us and to produce this fruit. It takes failing and learning from those mistakes and trying again and again with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We have experienced the growth and refinement of these spiritual fruits within our lives and the life of our family while being involved in the world of the foster care system. We often felt like we were living in some kind of petri dish under a giant microscope being thrown into situations and opportunities where those characteristics could be tested and formed. There were times when we failed miserably and times where we allowed the Holy Spirit to make something amazingly beautiful out of a dire situation. Those were the moments where we could visibly see the blossoming of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Over the next few blogs, we are going to hear directly from the hearts of people that are in our local foster care system, working and fighting for the best interest of the children living in their homes. As you read these blogs, will you allow the Holy Spirit to prune your heart of things that are keeping you from producing fruit? Will you let him tend the soil of your heart to prepare it grow? Will you let him put you in situations that may be difficult in order that his beautiful fruit will be visible in your life? Our hope is that you will.
Galatians 5:22 (MSG) “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others (love), exuberance about life (joy), serenity (peace). We develop a willingness to stick with things (patience), a sense of compassion in the heart (kindness), and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people (goodness). We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments (faithfulness), not needing to force our way in life (gentleness), able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (self-control).”