But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.
A few years back, when I had four children between the ages of 1 and 5, I joined a Bible study on the fruits of the Spirit. Since becoming a mom, I had wanted nothing more than to be a good, Godly mom to my kids. I entered the Bible study thinking, Oh good, this will help me to be more patient, kind, and joyful with my children.
Instead, I spent the entire 6-week Bible study loading myself with shame. Maybe I had been patient with my kids throughout the morning, but by afternoon I was struggling to be the mom I dreamed I could be. I was exhausted from being woken in the middle of the night, worn down by tantrums and sibling rivalry. I loved my kids and was so thankful to be home with them full-time, but if I were really following Jesus, wouldn’t the fruits of the spirit just pour out of me? It shouldn’t be this hard. I should be better.
As a friend of mine once said, I was “shoulding all over myself.”
This list of fruits from Galatians 5 had become a checklist of my daily failures. I needed to dive deep into the well of God’s grace again and again, but every time I came up for air, I felt my failure and its ally–shame. None of this helped me to be a better mom to my little ones. I was so unkind to myself that it left little room for me to be kind to others.
Fast-forward to the present, a time that may be less physically demanding, but if you’re a parent of teenagers, you know that it is no less challenging. Day after day I try to love my grown kids the best that I can, but so often say the wrong thing in an important moment, am busy and stressed when they need me fully present, or challenge them when they simply need grace.
The temptation to shame myself reappears.
But a few years ago, God whispered that his Holy Spirit was as near to me as the breath in my lungs. He reminded me that the fruit of His Spirit is already in me. If I am His child, then I’ve been sealed with the Spirit of God, and those qualities that I was striving for are already there. I simply need to access them.
So when it gets too much and love and joy and peace feel most intangible to me, I have started to practice a breathing exercise that has been amazingly beneficial.
As I take a deep breath in, I picture myself: Breathing in God’s LOVE (I hold it in my chest for a moment)
As I breathe out, I picture: Breathing out His JOY (and smile)
I breathe in again: Breathing in the PEACE of God
Breathe out: PATIENCE on those around me
Breathe in: The KINDNESS of the Lord
Breathe out: GOODNESS
Breathe in: FAITHFULNESS
Breathe out: GENTLENESS
Breathe in: SELF-CONTROL
And breathe out one final time.
As I do this, I picture the air going into my lungs, spreading through all the branches to the alveoli, saturating my bloodstream, and spreading to my extremities–fingertips and toes. That is how filled with the Holy Spirit we are. That is how filled up with each one of these fruits we are.
As I do these breathing exercises, which are already known to relieve stress and replace the shame of my shoulds with the truth of all that God has put inside of me, I find myself experiencing the fruits of the Spirit more fully.
When you are stressed or overwhelmed or feel far from God, try this little ritual. Remember that He is nearer to you than the breath in your lungs, and He has already given you everything you need to experience (and share) the blessings of His Spirit.