I don’t know when the complaints started seeping into my mind and spewing out of my mouth.
I’d experienced cabin fever during the harsh winters and the too-hot-and-rainy summers in Wisconsin. I’d grown accustomed to the loneliness that comes with living with pain and limited mobility. I’d even managed to thrive during the mandatory isolation during the pandemic.
But when God answered our prayers and brought us back to California, the obstacles we faced triggered an unexpected bout with irritability. My husband caught the bug, too.
Our journey has included more than a few challenges, but the Lord has provided for us in amazing ways since our return.
So why did we allow frustration to spice too many of our conversations? Why did we gripe a-little-too-much about the negative aspects of apartment living?
Last week, The Lord answered those questions with a gentle prick of conviction.
I mentor two beautiful teenagers via Zoom. We meet weekly to pray and study the Bible.
After finishing the book of Matthew, I had planned to lead them through the book of Romans.
God had other plans, better plans, a bit more uncomfortable but absolutely necessary plans.
I challenged the girls to read through the book of Galatians, one chapter a day. I believe in teaching in the trenches, so I also read a chapter each day.
When we get comfortable with reading Scripture, we can be tempted to forget that each word is God-breathed, infallible truth from the heart of our sovereign and good God.
As I read Galatians 5, the Lord reminded me of the heart-transforming power of His Word.
He affirmed my desperation for constant connection and total submission to Him.
He also pointed a spotlight on my sinfulness.
“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15, NIV)
I couldn’t deny that I’d succumbed to the “acts of the flesh” (v. 19). Discord, dissensions, and factions (v. 20). Yep. There they were. In my own home. Caused by my own attitude.
Being isolated from people didn’t affect me as much as realizing I’d severed my own connection with God.
Plunging myself back into His loving arms of grace, I repented then asked God and my husband to forgive me. Then, I said a prayer I hadn’t uttered for years.
Lord, please make me more like You.
I needed some fruit, some ripe and fragrant fruit of the Spirit that would make me look more like Jesus.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So when the neighbors didn’t follow the apartment complex rules, when my husband snapped at me, when something didn’t go as I planned, I had a choice.
Would I react in frustration? Would I lash out in fear? Or, would I respond like Jesus?
If I depended on my will, my strength, my ability, I would never be able to respond like Jesus. So, I needed to reconnect with my Power Source.
The apostle Paul charges us to “walk with the Spirit” so we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16).
But how? How could I walk with the Spirit if I wasn’t connecting with Him constantly?
Reading through Galatians with those two teenagers reminded me to go back to the basics, to return to the foundation of my faith ̶ an intimate relationship with God.
I desperately needed to approach God like a child again, with innocence and willingness to trust, with a longing to please Him, with a reliance on Him to provide everything I needed.
I began praying through the Scriptures each day with a hunger I haven’t felt in a long time.
I invited the Spirit to be my strength, to guide my steps, to change my heart and mind so that He could empower me to walk in alignment with God’s Holy Word.
I’d like to say I immediately checked my attitude at the door, but I would be lying.
I did, however, feel convicted when I allowed sin to seep into my attitude, my words, and my deeds. I did become quicker to apologize when I messed up and acted in the flesh. I started to respond with more compassion and understanding.
The process of transformation takes time and the power of the Holy Spirit.
God affords us all the time and power we need to become all He’s planned for us to be.
We do not have to do things in our own strength.
We can call on God immediately when we’re in need.
We don’t have to complicate our spiritual lives by trying to look more spiritual.
As we lean into God’s loving embrace, we can listen for His heartbeat and know that we are loved, cherished, and purposed for His glory.
We are empowered by the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. So we never have to be disconnected from Him. Never.
As we invite the Holy Spirit into our daily living, breathing prayers and praises throughout the day, we can ask Him to take a spiritual inventory.
To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!
Spirit of God, thank You for being our Power Source. Please increase our ability to love selflessly. Make our joy contagious. Give us peace that transcends all understanding. Let forbearance and kindness seep into our relationships. Change our character so we can reflect goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as we honor You with our attitudes, our words, and our actions each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I am asking the Holy Spirit to increase my self-control so that I will be quicker to listen, slower to react, and wise with the words and attitudes that I allow to impact my relationships.
If you were going to take a spiritual inventory, what fruit would you want the Holy Spirit to cultivate in your life?