One of the things that most frustrated me early in my Christian life is that it did not work the way I would have liked for it to.
My most palpable lesson relating to this discovery was many years ago, upon reading the verse that names the fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5:22. My first clue should have been that it said fruit, not fruits. To me it looked like a list. Thank goodness, I thought, something clear that I can check off as I complete. I can do this. Let the day begin.
It is amazing how difficult all those things become as soon as one thing does not go your way. Love, joy and peace went down within the first 30 minutes of arriving at work. Patience, kindness and gentleness never showed up. I think they got scared and ran off. Faithfulness, goodness and self control never had a chance. Plan B – try again tomorrow.
After a few “college tries” to embody the “fruits” of the spirit, and absolutely no success, I was annoyed. Not sure what else to do, I hid my annoyance as best I could and carried on as though my bubble had not been burst. Too bad denial was not on the list, because I had that nailed.
This was my first eye-opening experience to the fact that I cannot live the Christian life. What now? I don’t have the ability to obey God. This is unnerving. I am not who I thought I was. I can’t do what I thought I could do. The fact that no one else could either was only a temporary consolation.
But this is how I met the Holy Spirit. I learned that if I wanted to obey Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is the One who makes that possible. I don’t know why this would be so revolutionary to me, because the Bible says it over and over again. How many times had I read it or heard it without it fazing me at all?
I learned that I had much to learn about the Holy Spirit. He is my only hope of pleasing God. But up to that point in my Christian life, I had not received very much teaching about the Holy Spirit.
Quoting Oswald Chambers, “ ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ -the idea is that of invasion. There is now only one who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Of course, this is easier said than done. There is, much to my dismay, no checklist. It requires me to do things that are quite counterintuitive. Wait. Stop Trying. Stop trusting myself and only trust Him.
My struggle with my weight has been a blessing in that it brought me face to face with another tangible example of my absolute lack of power over myself. Repeated failures. Renewed determination. Stubborn refusal to stop trying.
In The Overcoming Life, by Watchman Nee, I was fascinated by his description of the conditions of surrender. “First,” he says “we have to acknowledge God’s appraisal that we are not able in ourselves. Second, we should not try to become able. Rather, we should lose hope in ourselves completely.” And later, he concludes, “Those who learn to leave things with God will experience deliverance.”
A new beginning occurred for me when I embraced the idea that I had to “give up on myself,” as Nee says, to stop trying in order to get out of my own way.