In our son and daughter-in-law’s San Francisco back garden is a lemon tree. When we visited recently, almost daily we picked the luscious yellow fruit for drinks, garnishes or for bits of the fragrant zest. I brought back a supply of these citrus jewels and we’ve enjoyed lemonade, flavored iced tea, lemon-chicken-with-thyme and I’m still looking for new recipes!
As we made our daily choices from the loaded tree, we were careful to pick only the ripe fruit. Some that remained were still green, obviously not ready for harvest. Other lemons were almost ripe but still clinging to the branches.
Recorded in the Bible are a first-century Jewish author’s words about fruit of another kind: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). While all this fruit–these spiritual characteristics–are to be evident in a Christ-follower’s life, I believe it’s also true that they progressively “ripen.” One who has walked long with Jesus through many difficulties may experience and exhibit patience to a greater degree than one who has rarely faced situations requiring God-empowered grit. Self-control is both a gift of God and an attribute honed through lessons learned in the face of situations crying out for uncontrolled response. Love grows when we have gazed long into the face of Jesus, our true love, and when we have learned to consistently claim his love for the unlovely.
Lemon trees need good soil, pleantiful nourishent and the right combination of water and sunshine. To produce the fruit of the Spirit, we need to regularly be feeding on the words of God in the Bible, variously described as milk, meat, bread and water. Nourishment also comes from a community of encouraging Christians who know how to supply a balanced diet of encouraging motivation and thought-provoking challenge.
We’re tempted to get discouraged with ourselves or judgmental of others when we see more green fruit than succulent ripe “lemons,” but it’s important to remember that just as on that lemon tree, not all spiritual fruit ripens at the same time. The Gardener reassures us that the one “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” And in the process we’re called to feed the the hungry, thirsty people around us with this just-enough fruit of the Spirit.
How has God “ripened” his fruit in you in the last month or two?
How has this fruit-in-you been feeding others?