Fruit-bearing trees, bushes, and plants need to be cultivated to thrive. And this is as true for fruit in garden groves as it is for the fruit of the Spirit which grows in our souls. If we are not cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, which is seeded into our own soul at birth, then we are we are simply experiencing life as dried fruit from our past, or as a sampling of fruit harvested from other people’s lives. Fruit-bearing is also seasonal. Some seasons of life are cyclical. A season of grieving, for example, will hopefully be followed by a time of healing until we come into a clearing. The psalmist says, “weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.” As we progress through these the seasons, certain fruit of the Spirit will mature over a lifetime.
In the scriptures, recurring illustrations come from the land – metaphors about farms and fields, gardens and vineyards, trees and orchards, flowers and fruit. We read about soil, seeds, and sowing; about light and darkness; about watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. Jesus was well versed in these things, and he has a lot to say. He asks, rhetorically, “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?”[i] No. Clearly not. What is his point? Jesus is inviting our reflecting on how then should we live. How do we want to conclude each day and conclude our life? In our relationship to God, we have both partnership and provision for living a whole life. God’s invitation is to collaborate (that is, to co-labor) with God in the cultivation of our soul: in our growing free and fruitful.
This nine-part podcast series follows Saint Paul’s names for “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.[ii] My hope is that you will find in this series the seeds of encouragement to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit within your soul with practices that will help you thrive in the changing seasons of life.
You may be wondering where is gratitude, which is not named as a fruit of the Spirit? Gratitude pervades all the fruit of the Spirit. Gratitude is the ground of our being. Life grows in the soil of gratitude, and without gratitude, our life will wither. In the beginning, your beginning, God created your life as a gift in which you share. There is no one else like you, and never will be. God is so thankful for you, as for all of us. Our response, in return, is to teem with gratitude to God, every day and in every way. Gratitude grounds the fruit of the Spirit.
Once upon a time a seeker asked the holy woman, Sono, what needed to be done to find meaning in life. She answered, “Every morning and every evening, whenever anything at all happens to you, just keep saying, ‘Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.’” The man did as he was instructed for an entire year, but then came back to Sono, disappointed that nothing had really changed in his life. “What you told me to do failed,” he said. “What should I do now?” Sono said immediately, “Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.” On hearing these words, the man was able to open his spiritual eye and returned home with great joy.
Gratitude undergirds all I will share with you. My hope is that you find these reflections helpful in claiming and cultivating the fruit of the Spirit which are God’s gifts to you for living life abundantly. Along the way, I will offer you suggestions for pondering and praying your life, and also, if you choose, for sharing conversation with others. You might find it meaningful to listen to a podcast, one a day for nine days, or one a week for nine weeks, whatever the sequence that is most meaningful to you. How frequently you listen to a new podcast may also be informed by whether you will share conversation with others on these “fruit of the Spirit” themes. Be well.
[i] Matthew 7:16.
[ii] Galatians 5:22-23.