Once upon a time, my favorite restaurant was the Golden Corral. It was, at the same time, my parent’s favorite restaurant because it was the only place they could take three teenage boys where they would be filled up without having to take out a second mortgage.
Those were the days when it didn’t matter what you ate, or how much of it you did, because your metabolism was working in overdrive. I would move through the buffet and grab two chicken fried steaks, a couple of bowls of mashed potatoes, and a couple of more rolls and then take it all down.
And then go back for more.
I don’t remember eating a lot of vegetables from the Golden Corral in those days – that was one of the other great parts about it. Because it was a long and glorious buffet line, I had the options of picking and choosing exactly what I wanted. And I picked and chose not based on health content, but on preference. I only wanted the things on my plate that were going to taste the best to me at that moment in time.
It occurs to me that we use the Golden Corral mentality in lots of other areas of life as well. We engage in relationships primarily with people who make us feel good about ourselves. We choose activities primarily based on what we will be the best at and enjoy the most. We put ourselves in situations where we have opportunities to display our best attributes. In many areas of life, we belly up to the buffet and choose that which tastes the best, regardless of whether it’s going to actually make us healthier.
We do this, too, with the development of our character. We know that once we come into Christ, that the Holy Spirit does His work of transformation in our hearts. He forms us into the image of Christ, growing us into His likeness in our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Paul wrote about this work of the Spirit in the book of Galatians using the agricultural metaphor of fruit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things (Gal. 5:22-23).
We look at that list, and no doubt there are some attributes on there that are more to our liking. Things that “taste” better to us because we are naturally already bent toward them. Our personality and makeup might be such that we are naturally joyful. Or that we are naturally patient. Or that we are naturally peaceful and laid back. But there are no doubt other attributes on this list that run completely against the grain of our personality:
We are naturally spontaneous, not self-controlled. We are naturally critical, not kind. We are naturally direct and abrasive, not gentle. Here is where we are tempted to employ the Golden Corral philosophy to our character, picking and choosing that which is the easiest source of personal development, but resisting the work of the Holy Spirit to develop these unnatural traits in us.
And when we do, the excuse is easy: “I’m just not a patient person.”
Thing is, these are the “fruit” of the Spirit. And the word “fruit” is singular. Not plural. It’s a packaged thing. An all or nothing deal.
That means we don’t get to be fruit-pickers.
The Holy Spirit does not allow us to fall back on the excuse of our personality; He’s not content to acknowledge our natural short-comings. What He will do, though, is grow us up in all these attributes, even the uncomfortable ones, through any and all means at His disposal.
The response to the work of the Spirit in our lives, then, is very simple: willing and joyful submission. To walk through the day believing the Spirit is at work in and through us to bring us into the likeness of God’s Son, and to not hold onto our natural personality traits. Or to use them as a crutch for our behavior.
Christian, don’t be a fruit-picker. Instead, embrace the holistic work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Hold nothing back.