The Fruit of Summer: Shaping Character
Jul 02, 2019 06:11PM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
It’s summer break. It’s Week 2, Day 9, the 18th hour, to be exact.
Any parent out there know what I’m talking about?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the time with each of my kids. I find that summers bring more communication and meaningful occasions to build sweet memories. We’ve even camped once since school let out. But there is so much else we have been doing, also. The kind of personal growth that doesn’t get blasted all over social media. The rougher moments behind the vacation photo shares.
What goes on with a vengeance in my house is this: building character.
And it definitely starts with me.
I’m not shy about the fact I’m an intense introvert and “feel”-er personality. My social energy is limited on a good day, but with three faces popping into my home office on and off all day, it’s even more challenging. I don’t do well when my normal quiet times aren’t quiet. I also struggle to hear ongoing tension in the house. And yet, one of my children loves a good mind-crunching debate on any topic—religious, political, or philosophical, God bless him! And the next one down has a feisty side that rises to his challenge. Those two are linear thinkers. Then comes my “feel”-er extrovert who processes everything out loud. And it makes a really fun batch of Smith Family dynamics.
But even though some days are ridiculously challenging, I would have it no other way. Where else will they learn these communication and conflict resolution skills if not within my own house practicing on those closest to them? It’s all good stuff—just not at 8 AM before I’ve brewed my first cup of coffee. Truth?
So, before I put my feet on the floor most days, I say a quick prayer asking God to help us. And He always does. As any parent surely would, I love seeing the growth in my children.
I become giddy at the sight of any humility, any overheard apology, any healthy negotiating. I love it when they don’t have to be right all the time, they can find areas within themselves to work on—and actually admit that out loud!, and they engage in active listening to understand another perspective. It’s not in any way shiny and perfect over here in the Smith household, but there is some fruit hanging on the tree at times, showing me that my decades of prayers have not been wasted.
There are definitely places I see where they each need more refining, and yet, every time I see that, I also see it in myself. (And they’re sure to tell me!)
So why, around camping trips, board games, varied opinions about how quiet to be while watching a television show together, selfishness, and quickness to take offense, do I see beauty? Why, even though some days every swear word in the English language (and some from the other ones I have studied) goes through my head and sits in my mouth, do I find value?
Because we are works-in-progress, like anyone else, and Jesus never gave up on us.
I think our Father in heaven looks upon us on earth and sees the fruit at the end of the bloom. He sees beyond the initial, pathetic little seed that wavers in faith that the dry soil around it will produce anything but yucky attitudes and sinful behavior.
The Apostle Paul wrote this to His fellow believers in Galatia:
Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
At any point in time, I need to work on all of these “fruits.” I may have a season where my love pours out more freely, only to be followed by the disillusionments of life where I struggle once again, and certainly, my children are no different. While one child needs to perhaps work on love and patience, another one needs greater self-control.
What better time than summer vacation to work on character with each other when we are all home at one time (except the one who drifts downstairs at noon after working a night shift).
Here’s the best part of the verse from Galatians above:
The fruit does not come from us.
It comes from the Holy Spirit at work in us (for those of us who have believed in Christ and invited His Spirit into our lives). The Holy Spirit has the job of informing and training our character. We need to ask the Spirit to help us grow that fruit on our branches.
Not only does this fruit come from the Spirit, but it is evidence that we are living obediently and reflecting our Savior better than we would be able to on our own.
I don’t know about you, but when I need to deal with a difficult person or struggle through a disagreement in a relationship, I need each and every one of those spiritual fruits!
Paul wrote similar counsel to the Colossian Christians. He asked them to wear God’s character like a garment:
Colossians 3:12-17, ESV
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul didn’t just leave them with this advice. He equipped them. They were to seek the peace of Christ and be thankful. They were to know the word of Christ so well it was to dwell in them, like a manual for peaceful living.
What I love about the rest of this passage is that it doesn’t assume we will have sunshiny demeanors all the time. It is realistic about human emotion and failures. So, when we do screw up, we are to use the wisdom of the word of Christ to teach and correct each other. And then there’s that word “thankfulness” again. Why? Because a heart of thankfulness knows where all of the fruit truly comes from: everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
So, this summer, when my kids come to me angsty about another family member, I am going to ask them which fruit they feel God is asking them to work on in themselves. Because, no matter how others treat or respond to us, positive change and character modeling begins with us. So does humility.
Others around us can respond well or maintain their sense of pride. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we yield to the Fruit Giver, the Gardener, the One Perfect in Character.
He has our backs. He makes us a better people. He gives us everything we need.
Proverbs 28:6, ESV
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A new lion head rabbit breeder, she also can be found on Instagram @thegivingrabbitry.