|Trying to enjoy as many of these sunsets as possible before it gets cold (and by cold I mean below 70 degrees). I don't know what sunsets have to do with living by the Spirit, but look at that sky!|
Which, for me at least, is one of those facets of Christianity that has been more about word than deed.
And I don't mean my speech is perfectly spirit-filled, so now I just need to focus on my actions. No, that's definitely not what I mean. Maybe I'll get there when I'm eighty or never.
I mean I talk about living by the Spirit, or being "out of the Spirit" a lot, but actually don't have a great tangible hold on what this looks like in day-to-day life.
Like when my two year old starts rough housing and kicks me right in the chest while I'm putting him to bed,
or when Kyle is cranky because he hasn't eaten in 12 hours and I'm like, "All we have are cheese sticks and peanut butter crackers because I subsist on toddler food while you're at work," and then we get in a low-blood sugar fight,
or, in ministry, when I see people heading for a brick wall and because there's this pesky thing called "free will" I can't stop them, and they won't listen to me (since, duh, I'm always right).
I've definitely experienced living by the Spirit before. When life feels a little bit like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard, and I'm unnaturally (supernaturally?) at peace, rested, able to love those around me in a way that is beyond my own ability. I have compassion for people, I have grace, I notice people, instead of brushing humanity under the rug of my own life and agenda.
Those are the moments I think, "THIS. This is what Paul goes on about."
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
But for the most part these moments are few and far between. I want to develop the discipline of living by the Spirit. I wish it was like plugging into an outlet or flipping some secret "Spirit-filled" switch, but it's not. I think it's like working out, which, you know, I'm so good at.
To be fair, Paul did try to warn us, right? All that talk about, "running a race," wasn't for nothing.
To cease living in my own strength and begin to live by the power of the Spirit is a discipline. One that, as I take steps further into marriage, motherhood, and ministry I realize I cannot do without.
Could Kyle and I have a decent marriage in our own strength? Sure, maybe. I don't know because I really don't want to try. I do know that I hope to understand my husband to a degree that requires us to love each other by the Spirit. To build our marriage into a place where both of us feel safe will require a level of forgiveness, and trust, and hope that I believe must be born and fed by the Spirit. I have felt what it is to be loved by the Spirit of God, and it is sweeter than anything or anyone. I think the Spirit can teach me to love Kyle better than any other person could.
Could I be a good mom in my own strength? Sure, maybe. But I also know my tendencies. My bent toward perfection, my drive for achievement and self-glory. How unnatural it is for me to stop in the middle of a busy work day and hug my children. I desperately want my children to feel loved because they are here. Because they exist. Not because of anything they did or did not do. The one place I have felt this in my own life is in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I think the Spirit can teach me to be a better mother than any other person could.
Could I do ministry in my own strength? Sure, maybe... for awhile. To be honest, I don't know if I will make it unless I learn how to access the infinite, available, in-Him-all-things-are-possible power of the great I Am. I can't tell you this for sure, but I believe laying among the ashes of many a burnt-out ministry is the tendency to try and be the hands and feet of Christ without the power of Christ. I know the Spirit can teach me how to be a better minister of His Gospel than any other person could... It is His, after all.
In the end, it's just not worth the risk to try this life on my own. Even at the ripe, young age of 27 I see the collateral damage of a Spirit-less life. It is not something of which I want any part.
So these are my verses for the semester, may my life become a reflection of them.
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives." - Gal 5. 22-25 NLT