Have you ever taken those spiritual assessments at church? They help you identify your God-given strengths so you can use those talents for the good of the Kingdom.
Love kids in the nursery.
Teach a class.
Help organize an event.
Show up early to serve the coffee.
Make hospital visits.
I like tests that tell me something about myself. It’s kinda magical to answer some questions and have an assessment tell you things about yourself. They’re not always 100% accurate, but there is always a good bit of truth in there as well.
No matter what test I take, I always get two results without fail: I have good discernment and I put a high value on truth-telling. (Also, I always get highly organized and good at administrative tasks, but I felt that wasn’t relevant to this story. BUT IF YOU NEED ME TO ORGANIZE SOME SHIT, I’M YOUR GIRL.)
Welcome to my blog where I discern and truth-tell whether people really want me to or not.
Tell the truth and make it slightly uncomfortable for everyone.
GIFTS! *throws confetti in the air*
I’m also good at noticing fake really quick. I can’t stand fake, my fake-radar (fakedar, if you will…) is very sensitive, and I just can’t stomach people who live unauthentic lives.
So it’s hard to admit I’ve been in close relationship with multiple people in the past few years who have been living lives full of lies and deception.
That’s a blow to my pride, and I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting because of it. I’ve had to take my fake-radar in for some tune ups. Apparently, if you’re too close, you can’t see the bullshit.
So I’m doing some re-calibrating and what I keep coming back to is the lesson Jesus shares of The Vine and the Branch in the book of John (this is The Message version):
I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that water you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is–when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
If we can’t trust our own judgment, if we can’t trust what our eyes see–trust God’s. His promise is if we’re investing in Him, He’ll invest in us.
And if our lives aren’t proving that, THEN WE ARE LYING. Not God. It’s not that He’s not following through, it’s us. We’re not actually doing what we’re saying. We are providing lip service. We are putting on a show. We are deceiving others (and maybe even ourselves).
What my counselor has reminded me time and time again, is the same thing the Bible says: Don’t listen to words, look for action. The power of Jesus tells us we can’t produce the fruit. We are not capable of it. We don’t have that authority.
Only our Creator does.
We are death and until our Living Savior shows up to do the changing and growing, we are just going through the motions.
We are fakes.
So what does fruit look like? What if our sensors are off? What if we’ve been tricked or lied to? What is fruit?
I think fruit looks slightly different on everyone, but the Bible is pretty clear on what life looks like when we are not producing fruit:
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or to be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. (Galatians 5: 19-20, The Message version)
Unfruitful lives sound chaotic and loud, maddening and lonely.
Fruit tends to be quieter, less demanding of attention.
God likes to show off, but His people shouldn’t. I often imagine fruit is more subtle, more details-and-everyday, more ordinary beauty. I think fruit is seen in reflection and in moments we’re not paying attention. I think often times we don’t see our own fruit.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5: 22-23, The Message version)
One of the downsides of teaching middle school was I never really got to see those kids become awesome. Sure, they were awesome in that moment and at that age, but middle school is weird and awkward and not (for 99.99999% of us) where we shine the brightest. High school is when students start to bear some fruit; they begin to figure out who they are, who they aren’t, and they are a little more settled about it. They’re not there yet, but they’re on their way.
Middle school teachers miss that part. We don’t get to see the fruit. We just do our best and hope they stop being such weirdos one day.
That’s how fruit works too. Much of it is just doing the daily work God tells us to, doing what we all know will lead to relationship with God and community with His people.
And He brings the fruit while we’re busy doing the assignment.
If our heads are down, focused on the task, the fruit might be noticed by others as they look up from their own work, but we probably won’t see our own often.
I’m cautious of anyone who wants to tell me about all the fruit they’re bearing.
We should be able to see it. Discernment isn’t just a spiritual gift just some of us get. Maybe some of us are better at it, but we all have the ability to discern. We are made in His image. If we’re spending time with Him, He’s going to give us His eyes.
Then we’ll see.
Here’s what I’m learning as I re-calibrate: if there is no fruit, don’t ignore it.
No fruit is God’s helpful warning sign for us. No fruit is the fake-radar God installed in us. You can’t feign fruit. It’s not possible.
You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. (John 15:16)
If something stinks, it’s not fruit, friends. It’s just not.
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