Wednesday, March 19, 2008

JUICY FRUITY WHAT??? - Juicy Fruit of the Spirit - Part 11 - March 15, 2008

“For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and gentleness. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) So, I guess that just about wraps up the Fruit of the Spirit.

Well…to be completely honest—and I suppose I should be, given the spiritual nature of this column and, it being Lent—there is one more fruit.

God was doing great, rolling along quite nicely with all these warm and fuzzy fruit—and then he had to tack on self-control. I don’t know about you, but when God asks me to exercise self-control, there’s a part of me that rises up like a two year old and says, “No!” or like an adolescent who shouts, “Just try and make me!”

I find it quite ironic that we are considering the fruit of self-control the day before Palm Sunday. Many of you have been practicing self-denial during the season of Lent, restraining from eating chocolate, drinking pints of pop, or indulging in some other addiction or temptation. So, how has that been working for you? Now be honest, a whole bunch of you blew it in the first week of Lent and gave up and caved in. You wimped out, just like me.

This past Sunday, my pastor invited the congregants to join him in two weeks of self-denial from something we love. Jim Lyon l-o-v-e-s Cadbury Eggs and he proved it to us by indulging in the chocolaty treat right there in front of us during the service. How rude! As he licked the gooey, yellow center off his fingers, I was convicted right then and there to give self-denial a second try. So I put my commitment in writing and took it forward.

In Sunday school, my hubby and I compared notes on what we’d each given up. He is giving up cookies. Rex is such a cookie addict that it was part of our prenuptial agreement that I was to keep the cookie jar full of freshly baked cookies. (I did pretty well on this until we both were diagnosed with high cholesterol.)

For my two-week act of self-denial, I have given up sweets. I thought it was pretty funny when Rex told me he was giving up cookies, all the while stuffing his face with a donut. I thought it was hypocritical to give up one type of sweet and still have an array of other sweet treats to indulge in. Not fair! If I’d know that he was only giving up one type of sweet, I might have gone a little easier on myself!

I’m relieved to say that I am doing well with my self-denial. I made it through that tough moment of temptation when I almost talked myself into eating a chocolate fudge kiss—under the guise of it being my daily dose of antioxidants. Then I successfully avoided eating the chocolate bars I was given at JC Penney’s—a sales gimmick in which a 10 or 20% discount is stamped on the inside of the chocolate wrapper. I did accept the discounts, however, and enjoyed them guilt-free.

Self-control is not fun. It’s like having to clean the toilets or having to get up early in the morning to go have a colonoscopy. It really is in my best interest to be self-controlled, but I resent it all the while. Self-control is also not easy. But then, it wouldn’t be self-control if it was easy, would it!

Fortunately—and ironically—we don’t have to do self-control all by ourselves. According to Titus 2:11-12, “the grace of God…teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”

And I think we’d find that self-control comes easier if we just focus on controlling our own behavior rather than trying to control everyone and everything else. Personally, though, I find it much more satisfying to focus on conforming your behavior to mine or God’s standards!

FYI: I know you’re wondering what I required of Rex in our pre-nup. He had to agree to never, ever, EVER bring snakes into our house.

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