But the fruit of the Spirit is ...faithfulness, gentleness - Galatians 5:22 - 23
When I first sat down to write this blog, I had no idea what I wanted to say about faithfulness and gentleness. For me, they are the cornerstone of my relationship with God - my trust in him and the way I act. The bible uses the word "faith" 336 times, clearly indicating the importance of this disposition (for example Hebrews 11:1 and Mark 5:36) . Similarly, while gentleness is not found a significant number of times, other words such as "meekness", "humility" and "humble" are regular themes in both the Old and New Testament (for example Proverbs 15:1; Philippians 2:3 )
But like every other fruit of the Spirit, it is so easy to doubt and experience pride. Trusting others, especially an unseen, all powerful being, can be daunting. Similarly, being humble, meek and showing humility is also anachronistic with our current world of individualism, selfies and social media.
And yet, in many ways trusting someone and showing humility isn't that tricky to do. Consider children: they are the ultimate example of trusting, relying on Mum and Dad to provide for their every need whether it is food, shelter, comfort or simply a nappy change. And, from my personal experience, they don't understand the concept of pride or bragging (maybe I am wrong - my daughter is only 9 months after all). This is why I think God instructs us to be like children (Matthew 8:3) because they naturally imbue the values which he wants us to act rather than the values and behaviours we have learnt and display as adults.
So why do we struggle to trust? Why do we brag or ignore our neighbour? My training, experience and research has shown that it is our childhood experiences that can lead us to struggle to trust, to be selfish or prideful. Research has shown that as children we have particular physical and emotional needs that need to be met. We know that when children don't have these needs met, they apply meaning to this. This meaning is generally personal and teaches them a rule about themselves or the world. These rules are different for each child, but ultimately they can be harmful. For example, a child whose mother often makes promises and then fails to meet them may learn a rule that people are not trustworthy, or that they are not worth having promises kept. Or a father who often tells their child how amazing they are at school may inadvertently teach the child that they are only valuable because of their achievements or that is it important to brag about what they do and showoff. It is very important to recognise that in most cases parents have the best of intentions, but the reality is that life experiences, even from an early age, can be a mixture of matched and mismatched intentions and needs. Ultimately, we all learn rules about the world that contain a mixture of trust and mistrust meanings, or pride versus humility meanings. And these rules continue into adulthood where they generalise out and influence our ability to relate to others - and more importantly - to God.
And this is where the beauty of God comes into play. Firstly - God loves us irrespective of our history and experience. Specifically, he loved us so much that he sacrificed his son for us (John 3:16) which, as a mother, is mind boggling. And because God loves us that much, he sent us the Holy Spirit to help us grow in these areas and build faithfulness, build gentleness. All we need to do is start with a seed - a small amount of faith and the Holy Spirit will help us grow - just like a tree starts as a seed and with nutrients and water (reading the bible, praying, connecting with God) it will grow.
This week, I therefore encourage you to plant some seeds. Take a step in faithfulness, be gentle. Talk to God and ask him to to heal you from the unhelpful learning of your childhood (which we know he does as demonstrated a gazillion times in the New Testament). Let the Holy Spirit in to show you the areas that you need to work on. Trust him - just like children do.
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.
If the information presented here today triggered some mental distress, you may also benefit from additional support and discussion. Some useful sources of support include:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380
Mensline 1300 78 99 78
Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
Or speak to your GP.