Friday, February 4, 2011

Trading Frustration for Fruit

Galations 5:22-23 "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy , peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." 

     I have noticed that I am becoming very easily frustrated lately.  Really frustrated with many things, be they big or small.  I have also noticed that my response has not been very, let's say "fruitful".  I'm not sure why this is cropping up now, but I suspect that Satan is throwing things into my path to deter me from my Christian walk, and I must say, I'm allowing him to do a very good job.  Not only is my attitude having an affect on my own heart, but I suspect it's affecting the hearts of my children too.  Now that I have made myself aware, I'm making a plan to fix it!  You are welcome to join me in this little "exercise" if you like.
     Let's call this a  training exercise!  If you want to change anything, be it your diet, your level of fitness, or even a spiritual problem, you need a plan.  "Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness"..."which is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next", 1 Timothy 4:7-8.  In this particular exercise two steps are necessary.  Step 1 will be to acknowledge the sin.  By this, I mean that precise moment when something comes along and we feel the frustration beginning.  It might be a thoughtless comment from someone else, it might be the never ending construction zone, it might be the lack of funds to do something you would like, but the sin is your own thoughts about the situation and your subsequent reaction to it.  Step 2 will be to replace our sinful thoughts and responses with fruitful ones.  When eliminating a bad habit, it's important to fill that spot with something good.  If we don't make a conscious decision about what to replace it with, we will find something will fall into its place on it's own,  and it might just be another bad habit.
     To practice this now for use later, recall a moment today or yesterday when you were frustrated.  For me this was an argument between my two teenagers that I stepped into "help" with, and said some really annoying things that even I didn't want to hear.  I was frustrated by the tone they took with each other, and the unkind things they said.  I was further frustrated by the fact that they behaved in this unchristian manner in front of younger siblings who watched in open mouthed awe.  My reaction belittled the older kids, and did nothing encouraging for the younger kids.  The argument ceased, and we all sat down to eat a breakfast we no longer wanted with people we didn't want to sit with.  Satan won that round!  A fruitful response would have had different results.  Looking back on this moment I want to think about what could I have done or said that would have reflected the fruits of the spirit.  Calling a truce to cool off, taking an opportunity to pray with each teenager individually, but something constructive to stop the flow of useless and hurtful words, and turn the atmosphere back to one of love and joy or at least peace and patience.  I'm choosing now to be thankful for this situation as it will give us an opportunity to talk to one another and practice asking for, giving, and receiving forgiveness.  It matters not who is right or wrong.  It matters that we love one another and keep short accounts on wrongs.
     This practice of reflecting on the past sin, will give us a clue for how to deal with the future sins we haven't yet committed.  For the rest of this day I am going to actively look for frustrating circumstances and situations so that I can practice!  When I leave my house and drive through the construction zone that has been our neighborhood for almost a year, I'm going to pray for each construction worker that I pass.  I'll pray for their warmth and safety.  I will pray in thankfulness that we will have a new and far less treacherous road for when my oldest son learns to drive soon.  When my family gathers tonight after a day at school and work, I will not rehash the unseemly behavior from this morning.  I will hug my kids tight, have a snack with them, listen to their day, and be thankful we have each other and everything we need in a world that often seems to be spinning widely out of control around us.  When my husband comes home, I will not meet him at the door with all the dirt of the day.  I will ask him about his day and listen like I really want to hear it, because I do.  I love him and he works hard for our family.  He is a good example of a hard worker for our children and he leads our family in the way we should go.  If someone, friend or stranger says something unkind or unthoughtful, to myself or someone else, I will not respond in kind.  I will instead pray for that person, and if appropriate, say something kind or uplifting to them.  I will show love when someone seems unlovable.  God loves them already, how can I do less?  I will use little frustrations as reminders to pray.  Prayers of thankfulness for safe keeping, for guidance, and for opportunities to grow, will be what I replace my frustrations with.  I will choose to be used by God instead of Satan when life's little frustrations come my way.