The red fruit made my mouth water.  I could hardly wait for it’s ripening. To help pass time, I planned recipes for each tangy morsel.  I planned: fresh tomato salsa, bruschetta, hand made pasta tossed with tomato, olive oil and garlic and topped with looping curls of Parmesan Reggiano… the list ran for pages.

I carefully tended the plant. I gave it the perfect amount of water. I fed the soil the recommended type and amount of fertilizer.  I made sure it received the right type and amount of sunlight.

This required copious amounts of research, as I am naturally a plant slayer- not a plant player.  Maybe my acrylic nails block the green-thumb gene.  Or maybe, that gene is recessive and totally skipped my generation. Either way- I am the Dr Kervorkian of the plant world, plants come to me for help with dying, not living.

Daily I checked the fruit. And daily, my heartbreak grew.  Instead of growing and plumping to perfection, each fruit slowly deteriorated.  First, they puckered and drooped, then flattened, moldered and finally: rotted.

I reviewed all my research materials.  I’d done everything by the book:

  • Water- check
  • Sunlight- check
  • Fertilizer- check
  • Temperature- check
  • Soil- Check

Well. Almost everything.

See- I wanted fresh tomatoes and when I went to the grocer they had beautiful, but not quite ripe, tomatoes. I brought them home, tied them onto a tiny christmas tree, and tended them to (what I thought was) perfection. I thought they’d finish growing and I’d soon have the plump red fruit I craved.

Not so much.

Ridiculous?  Maybe. Evidence of my plant induced-idiocy?  Probably.

I bet I’m not the only guilty party.

Oh please, don’t pretend you’ve never done it.

Maybe it wasn’t tomatoes..  If you’re like me- maybe it was another type of fruit.  The fruit of the spirit, that you tied on and hoped would grow.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22

For years I read this list as my personal “To Be” list. (A little like a “to do” list, but infinitely harder to complete.) I tore it apart and tied on tiny unripe tomatoes of the spirit…

I tried to be loving, I became: annoying.

I tried to be joyful: I walked around grinning. I looked psychotic.

I tried to be peaceful, my best effort was closer to denial.

My attempts at patience made me grind my teeth until a TMJ flare up drove me to the ER for Vicodin. (This made me kind of peaceful in a stoned, not so much a holy spirit- way.  Which is not the same thing.)

Goodness I had a hard time even defining. Honestly, I let that one slide.

I moved on towards being faithful. I started carrying a big bible everywhere I went and talking about MY faith. I sounded like I had cornered the market and was trying to make a profit by selling it off. Let’s just call that an epic faithfulness fail.

In trying to be gentle-I gritted my teeth, trying NOT to say all the harsh things I think. Again: TMJ. This time so bad, I thought I had an ear infection.

In striving for self control-I denied myself things I loved and ended up feeling like a failure, and managed to gain weight.

I sat down to again read the entire book of  Galatians.  Maybe I was missing something. (Ya think?)

This is what hit me:

1) These are the fruits of the SPIRIT- not fruits of the Tracey. (Who may be a fruit, but of a whole ‘nother sort..) This is first and foremost, a list of the attributes of GOD. He is all these things.  (Which is good, cause I need him to be, daily…)

2) Fruit grows, it cannot be put on. Un-ripe fruit tied on with twine will not ripen. It will rot.

It is not my to do, or to be list. These are part of what god plans to grow in me… in his time and in his season of planting and harvest. I had it all wrong.  Instead of trying to BE these things.. I need to spend time and energy being with him.  The bible calls it abiding…

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:1-5

I don’t know about you.. but I’m sick of trying to fake it.  I’m sick of smelling like rotten tomatoes.  I don’t want to waste my time TRYING… I want to spend it abiding.  BEING with him and letting HIM change me..

I’ve had tiny peeks at how he does this. It’s mostly been through situations that challenge and change me.  Not always by my handling them RIGHT, but by my handling them wrong, and learning from it. Sometimes, it’s been by a holy infusion of patience I KNOW, I don’t have. (Funny how kids can require that.) Or in the twinkling of an idea for a kindness that is beyond my actual selfishness.  Sometimes it’s the 10,000th time I’ve read something in the bible and a light goes on and I finally get it.

I doubt God has a formula or growing plan for how he does all of this. How he works in my may be different from how he works in you….but I do not doubt that he does.

Today- I pray that we’d each find our place in the vine to abide.  I pray that we’d be connected, and let the fruit grow in it’s season and his time. I pray that we’d find the rest that comes from not TRYING so hard.  I pray that we stop tying on tomatoes of the spirit, only to have them rot.

Dear Lord— I so love you for all the things YOU are.. You are: loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self controlled…   help us to know you, to spend time with you and to someday, become like you. I can’t pretend to understand how all this works…but I thank you for continuing on in the work you have already begun in each of us.. I love you lord- amen.

Actual, beautiful tomatoes my green-thumbed husband grew this summer….. so much better than rotten!