I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve with one word on my mind.
In a rare moment of clarity during the December rush, I knew exactly what the word meant and why it was there.
Maybe you’re familiar with the practice of choosing one word for the new year—a word that describes who you want to be or how you want to live for the next 365 days. I like this idea—it somehow feels better than making a list of resolutions that always seem to get broken before January is half over.
The thing that has always thrown me about the one-word thing, though, is choosing just one. As one of my favorite bloggers wrote recently, “I like ALL the words.”
So I wasn’t planning to choose a word for 2015.
Then, that morning, a word chose me.
The word? Fruit.
I didn’t wake up with an idea for a new eating plan that emphasizes bananas, grapes and strawberries. Rather, the sweet produce on my mind was of the biblical variety.
You know—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (also known as the “fruit of the Spirit,” according to Galatians 5:22-23).
Honestly? It required absolutely no reflection on my part to see that several of these lovely traits had been in somewhat short supply around our house during the busy holiday season (probably longer). And while I can get pretty frustrated about what I perceive as lack of growth in my children, they are not the only ones with room for improvement here.
It has to start with me.
When I sense that one of my daughters has a heart issue she needs to work on, my tendency is to talk. On and on, as if the more I repeat myself, the better chance I have of getting through. But I’m beginning to realize that lecturing like a college professor is not all that effective, especially when my audience is a teenager.
I need to model more and talk less.
It’s not rocket science, I know. But it is hard. When it comes to modeling each element of the fruit of the Spirit, it is very hard. And depending on how long it’s been since I’ve eaten, the amount of sleep I didn’t get the night before or the side effects of the medication I’ve taken that day, it can seem nearly impossible.
I can try, in my own strength, to demonstrate these nine attributes in 2015. But without God’s grace filling my mind (and guarding my mouth), I might as well give up before I start.
So I’m going to pray, every day that I remember, for the fruit to grow in my heart, and in the hearts of the people in my house.
This is not some legalistic chore, mind you. I don’t have a chart or a box to check every day. But the more I do it, the more I want to do it.
As I pray, these nine godly traits are becoming richer and fuller to me. I’m starting to see how they pretty much cover anything that any of us might be dealing with at any given time.
I pray, not just for the people in my house to be loving, but for them to feel loved. Not just for goodness in general, but for all four of us to notice some bit of good in all the people and situations around us, especially those we might find annoying or irritating. Not just for Lilly and Molly to be faithful in their schoolwork, but for me to be faithful with my time. And so on.
So far, I can’t point to vast improvements—in myself or anyone else. I wonder at times if the cliche about not praying for patience unless you want God to give you something to be patient about applies, but quickly replace that notion with the knowledge that this is a right and necessary practice for me today.
A few weeks in, I can say this with certainty: I am definitely more aware of the opportunities I have to model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I’m more aware of the better choice I could make, before I react or snap or huff. I don’t always make the better choice, but I am thinking about it more often.
I haven’t stopped talking, by the way. I still point out necessary course corrections. I still remind people of how their words and actions affect others, and what they need to do about it.
But, through prayer, I’m trying—sometimes successfully, sometimes not—to leave conviction up to the Holy Spirit. It’s not my job to make sure everyone feels how I want them to feel or responds how I want them to respond.
It takes the pressure off me, actually. And in this new year—with all its expectations, obligations and uncertainties—less pressure is just what I need.
Less pressure—and more fruit.
My one word for 2015.