Last week while visiting my husband’s family in Ohio, I found myself sitting alone on the front porch with my husband’s 84-year old grandmother, Linda. As I sat and cross-stitched on a beautiful, cool afternoon, Linda began to tell me about how she used to visit her grandmother as a girl growing up in Virginia. When she was around the age of 12, she would take a bus and visit her grandmother almost every weekend. All these years later, she described what she remembered about her grandmother:
“I can remember walking up the driveway and always seeing her sitting there. There was a room in the front with a big window, and she would always be sitting there with her Bible on her lap. Then at night when we would go to bed, she would always be down on her knees beside the bed praying for her children and grandchildren.”
What a wonderful memory! Of all the things that Linda must have experienced with her grandmother, this memory is what stood out. Then Linda had one more thing to add:
“And you know what? She was always the most joyful, kind person to be around, too.”
Now, that makes sense, doesn’t it? It is no surprise that a woman who spent her days in God’s word and prayer would be a pleasant person to be around. The Bible teaches us this very thing.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
When we are living by the Spirit, these fruits should be what others see in our lives, a natural growth of God’s word in us. I have to ask myself, though, is that how my children will remember me?
I made a conscious decision several years ago that I wanted my children to be able to look back one day and remember that following Jesus made their mother a joyful person, a better person. If the prominent memory was that working for the Lord made me bitter and tired, which was the case at the time, why would they ever want to be Christians?
Showing my children the joy of Christianity is now a daily guiding principle in my life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. There are many times when I am so angry with my children, and as I stand there wanting to yell at them, my mind is repeating “gentleness, gentleness, gentleness” over and over until I calm down and gentle is what I can be.
No one who follows Jesus wants to be remembered as an angry, grumpy, or short-tempered person. That is the opposite of who we should be. So, how do we help the fruits of the Spirit to flourish in our own lives? Jesus tells us how in John 15:4-5.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so 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, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
The answer is Jesus. We must abide in Him and He in us. Abide in Him. The fruits of the Spirit will not be characteristic of our lives by just occasionally visiting with Jesus, but by abiding in Him, remaining in Him, staying with Him.
We abide with Jesus as we come to know Him through God’s word, that sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is God’s word that changes us as we dwell in it and allow it to dwell in us.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
I pray that my children will remember me as a person in whom Jesus did abide. I want to dwell in God’s word and in prayer so that the Spirit causes my life to be full of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I hope that future generations will remember me as Linda remembered her grandmother.
And there is only one way that will happen.
I must resolve to be that person today.