My blog has been quiet for a few weeks, but I have been writing. Flipping back through the pages of my notebook, I had trouble finding where I left off with my last blog. I have been busy, which is something I try to avoid. I’m exhausted and frustrated with the limitations of time for each day. And yet, I can see the work that God is doing in my heart. Colossians 3 has colored the past month of my life. In my last blog, I focused on what it would mean for me to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [me] richly,” but the more I read Colossians 3:16-17, the more I realized that I really needed to start with verse twelve: “Put on then. . .compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. . .” Paul has us clothing ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit. I read this and feel like Adam and Eve must have, when their eyes were opened to their nakedness. (Genesis 3:7-8)
I have often heard it said that if you change your behavior, your heart will follow. This can be true. If we create a habit of behaving as God wants us to, we may find that our hearts become joyful in undertaking the acts of obedience. But God sees the heart and discerns our true motives, and our begrudging behavior won’t necessarily bear fruit. Recently, I re-read a blog that I wrote four years ago. I was horrified to realize that, after believing I had made a change, I had slipped back into the same sins. God had shown me an area of my life that was rotten, and I addressed it briefly, and then moved on, forgetting what I learned. I know I have grown in faith since then, but where is the fruit? Behavior modification had failed to make a lasting change in my life.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.Colossians 3:12-14
As I meditated on Colossians 3, I realized that I am actually clothed with pride and annoyance. I have difficulty loving others, but love is supposed to be the defining characteristic of a Christ-follower. I should be kind and forgiving, most especially to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet I find myself even more peevish and unforgiving with them than the world at large. This is exactly what Paul was addressing in Colossians. My kindness and love are supposed to start within the body of believers and flow out from there. Paul emphasized the importance of love many times in his epistles. But what is love, patience, or any of the fruit of the Spirit that we are called to grow? They cannot be mere feelings, which are transient. When you think about it, they are intangible. They are attitudes within us which grow from the condition of our heart; they are heart-conditions.
We choose our behaviors, and often act in obedience, but when our motives are wrong, it only gets us so far. I have been told many times that I am patient, but it isn’t true. On the inside I am frustrated, and the only fruit on display is self-control. It’s a start, but I have found that pushing myself to act in manner that does not match what is in my heart, leads me to be more sinful in my thoughts and attitudes. And then there is the forgetting. Over time, I think we all tend to slide back into who we are on the inside. The inside must change; changing who we are on the outside is just putting on a show.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:1-3
I have been praying from Colossians 3, and asking God to change my heart. What God calls us to, He is perfect in. Who can train our hearts better than He can? I am feeling the effects. More and more God is helping me to recognize when what I think or say is contrary to the person I am called to be in Christ. I still have a long way to go. In all of my busyness at work, somehow I still find time to complain. What a stupid waste of time for someone who prides herself on prioritizing well! There it is: pride. God has a lot of work to do on me. My part is praying and keeping connected to His word. Change is nearly impossible when we try to muscle it ourselves. But when we look to God for help, the impossible almost seems easy. Almost, because I still catch myself allowing circumstances to distract me from my God-focus. When I focus on circumstances, I trip and fall. When I rely on God, I stand firm.
This morning, I had an appointment and then I met my sister at the store. As we drove home in our separate vehicles, we kept getting caught in traffic that was going ten to fifteen miles below the speed limit. Even on a highway with three lanes in our direction, we were both constantly foiled from getting up to speed. About half-way home, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Did someone pray for patience? Yes, that would be me. I have been praying for it for years. Because fake fruit isn’t fruit at all.