Some people are natural-born athletes. I am not one of those people. Everything about me is uncoordinated – I regularly trip over my own two feet!
There are several athletic activities that us uncoordinated people avoid – like jump roping, sports that involve balls, and group exercise classes to name a few.
My avoidance of these activities has been fairly successful – until the other day when my friend Jess invited me to go with her to a group exercise class. If that wasn’t scary enough, it was a “Dance Party” class, yikes!
My stomach was in knots as I walked into the room – this was way out of my comfort zone! I may have run over a hundred miles this year, but this kind of exercise goes against everything inside of me!
As the class started and we worked on our first set of moves, I felt pretty good. Step forward, step back, step forward, step back. “Hey, I think I can do this!” I thought. Then we added the arms and it was all over 😜
When God made Adam, He said “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) – but I think sometimes we’d rather be alone than have to deal with some of the people in our lives! As we interact with others, it often goes against everything inside of us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).
As human beings, we carry within us “the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Everything inside of us wants our relationships to give us good feelings. Love is supposed to feel good. Family is supposed to feel good. Friendship is supposed to feel good. And a lot of times it does! But there are many more times it doesn’t.
When we care about someone, we expect them to care about us in return and we expect them to show it by acting in ways that line up with what we believe is right and good. That pesky sinful nature we were born with makes this difficult, though, and instead of feeling good feelings, everything inside of us wants to get mad, get even, or give up altogether!
One morning about a year ago, I was stressed out and burned out and and grumpy with my husband for who knows what and in my quiet time that morning, I felt God leading me to encourage him that day. Tim’s primary “Love Language” is “Words of Affirmation” but it’s at the bottom of my list of strengths. So as I heard him walking down the stairs, I said to God, “NO! I CAN’T! It goes against everything inside of me!”
And then I heard a very clear voice say, “No it doesn’t! If you have My Holy Spirit inside of you, then it doesn’t go against EVERYTHING inside of you!”
In Galatians 5:16-17a, Paul tells the believers to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” There are going to be many times when God’s command for me to love seems contrary to my natural desires, but thankfully “me” is not all that’s inside of me!
A few verses later, Paul writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice he doesn’t say “the fruit of you” or even “the fruit of your obedience” – he says the “fruit of the Spirit”.
It’s not the fruit of you, it’s the fruit of Him. I don’t know about you, but love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are not things that I’m naturally good at. They are all things that go against the “me” inside of me. But in every moment of choice, the Holy Spirit is available and willing to produce this fruit in me as I yield to Him.
By the time we got to the halfway point of our workout the other night, I was getting in the groove. Being surrounded by a group of women who were struggling (and laughing) as much as I was helped, but I also discovered this secret: Whenever I was off track, going in the wrong direction, or just could not get my hands and feet to work together, instead of trying to fix the problem while in motion, I stopped moving, thought about it, and restarted.
Whenever loving your neighbor (or your spouse, or family member, or co-worker, or friend) seems impossible for you to do, you can pause and make a conscious choice to let the Holy Spirit in you love them instead. You can “remove yourself from the transaction”* – your flesh and its self-focused emotional desires don’t have to be the deciding factor!
If you’ve put your faith Christ, then you have God’s Spirit in you and now everything inside of you is not just you – it’s Him, too. And the Holy Spirit’s not a professional dance aerobics instructor smiling (way too much) and saying, “You can do this!” He’s saying “I can do this!” We love people not because we can do it, but because He can!
*Eric Samuel Timm, Outcry Philadelphia 2016