by Lori Heagney, LCMHC
I recently saw the most stunning image while looking online at some nature photos. Hanging from the frozen branch of a tree was a spectacular crystal apple. The farmer called it a “ghost apple.” It had been formed during a polar vortex as freezing rain coated a rotting apple, creating a solid shell of ice. Since the rotting fruit on the inside had a lower freezing point than the outside temperature, it slipped out like applesauce leaving behind a ghostly replica of its former self (see image here: https://images.app.goo.gl/ZHTbVKrnSjVipM8P6).
I thought of this as a perfect metaphor for how we attempt to develop the fruit of the Spirit talked about in the book of Galations. As followers of Christ we undergo the lifelong process of sanctification and the Lord works through the Holy Spirit to produce His “fruit” in our lives. I have found that all too often we forget that this is a cooperative effort. In a rush for it to happen we take matters into our own hands and end up projecting a ghostly image of something that is not truly a product of the Spirit, but rather something we produce ourselves.
Our fruit can be dazzling and often gain much attention from those around us, just as this image captured the attention of thousands of viewers on the internet. This is dangerous in many ways. Pride can take root when we take credit for our own accomplishments. We can also lead other believers astray by showing them a counterfeit image rather than the true work of the Spirit, and that fruit is never as sweet.
As stunning as the representation may be, unless it is the real thing it’s important to remember that on the inside there is nothing but an empty shell produced by rotting fruit that slipped away during the ice storms of life. Unless the Holy Spirit produces the fruit, it will not last.
So how is it possible to produce lasting fruit? Let’s go over a few steps to help us get there.
Fruit not Fruits: Galatians 5:22-23 (New King James Version) tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Note that the noun fruit is not plural, but rather collective. We are not talking about a fruit-salad, but rather a whole group representing a singular entity; traits of the Spirit Himself. It is easy to fall into the trap of favoring one fruit over another; being selective about what fruit we want to possess (kindness) and which ones we don’t (longsuffering). Have you ever found that it is easy to embrace and take credit for the fruit that comes more naturally to your own nature, and perhaps judge others who do not seem to possess that same trait in themselves? God has called us to produce all of His qualities and not just some of them. We can’t pick and choose the ones that suit us and fully represent His character in full.
Connection: Just as it is with apples, in order to produce fruit, we must be connected with our source of sustenance. In John 15:4-5 (NKJV) Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Google defines connection as, “a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.” In order to bear the image of our Lord and Savior, we must stay connected to Him through the Holy Spirit. Just as a cut off branch cannot produce fruit, neither can we if we do not stay connected with our Source.
Spending intentional time with a person helps us get to know them. We learn about their hopes and dreams and we share our own with them. In doing so it helps develop the relationship and it grows. Often we take on characteristics and develop similar interests with those we hang out with. When we spend time with the Lord through worship, in His word, and by talking with Him in prayer, we accomplish the same. By learning about His characteristics, His heart, and His way of doing things, we develop the fruits of His Spirit in us.
Abide: According to Google, abide means to “go along with” or “fall in with.” This word speaks of a cooperative process, rather than an instantaneous event. The word of God has the power to transform us, but it takes time. We need to participate and allow time for God’s word to be planted firmly in us, to hear it and then do what it says. The fruit of the Spirit grows from our cooperative response/reaction to our circumstances and the people He puts on our path. We cannot develop patience by avoiding trying activities/people any more than we can develop love by responding with hatred. As we fully submit ourselves to God and His way of accomplishing His will in our life, good fruit will inevitably be the outcome.
It is important to remember that growing spiritual fruit takes time, so take a deep breath, give yourself grace and relax into the process. The apple doesn’t tug on the tree to make itself grow; it just stays connected and it happens. A crystal apple may be beautiful, but in the end, it’s just a ghost and we all know that ghosts aren’t real! : )
*This blog is dedicated to my brave client (you know who you are!) who has embraced this concept, helped me develop this metaphor, and is allowing the Holy Spirit to grow her into the woman He created her to be, day by day!