But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (Galatians 5:22 WEB)
Over the years I’ve been placed in numerous situations which required me to learn how to do something new. I was never a construction worker nor a machinist. Fortunately, my father taught me how to make normal home repairs. Growing up Dad repaired most things around the house and when he was unable my mother stepped in to keep things going forward. This instilled in me the need to attempt to repair and fix things about the house.
I use the word “attempt” because my abilities and understanding of housing construction and repair are sometimes less than adequate to achieve the desired result. In truth, sometimes the item under repair was worse when I finished than when I started. It was all part of learning my limitations and the phone number of the local plumber, handyman, or fellow missionary willing to lend a hand.
One year a retired couple came to Guam to help with fixing my mistakes, housing repairs, construction, and other types of repairs around the mission property. Roy and Agnes were delightful. Roy was great at repairing just about anything around the house or office building. It was like having grandparents on the field to enjoy the children and lend a hand where needed.
We needed a new home to have room for four children. Before our furlough there was discussion about adding another room to our house. Then another missionary family decided to move to the USA so their home became available and it had the extra room we needed.
The house was situated directly behind our old home so traveling back and forth to help Roy, when I was not on duty, was easy and convenient. I just climbed the fence and I was there. When we finally moved we dropped the fence for a few hours as colleagues helped carry our furniture from one home to the other across the backyards. But before we moved the house needed some preparation. This was right up Roy’s alley.
Beth and Evan brought Roy and I coffee each morning. Evan told Roy he could sleep on the end of his new bed since he was moving out of the crib into a real bed.
A lot of the refurbishment was handled directly by Roy. The removal of old carpet, tile, and preparation to re-tile the entire house required my assistance to complete the job on time. When we pulled up the old carpet most of the house was in good shape. Holes from the furring strips needed to be filled and in two rooms we discovered old tile beneath the old carpet.
Removing the tile from the dining room was straightforward. Removing tile from Joel’s new room was less than spectacular. The original tiles were installed with contact cement and did not pull off the concrete easily. For three weeks Beth and I chipped away at the old tile until it was finally removed and the floor prepared for the new tiles.
One thousand, two hundred and twenty-one tiles later Roy and I completed the new flooring. Walls painted, cracks patched, we were ready to occupy our new home. Our fellow missionaries and friends from our church arrived to help us move.
I had shift duty the day we moved so timing was critical. With a flurry of arms, trips, boxes, furniture and dodging children at play, our personal items were transferred from one home to the other. As I prepared for work there were no curtains, so I moved from place to place to be out of the way as the final items were brought over.
I departed for the transmitter site and left Beth with our friends to complete the move. Their love and care for our family was spectacular. By the time I returned home at 6:00 a.m. the next morning there were curtains and shades up so I could get some rest before starting to hang pictures and deal with other “moving in” items. Evan went to bed the first night and was sad that Roy wasn’t really going to live with us, he thought the “grandpa” came with the house.
After a couple weeks we were fully settled into the new house and holding a Bible Study in the living room. At one point in the evening there were some loud noises from the boy’s room. I walked back to the boy’s room. Evan and James were sharing a bedroom. I stepped inside their room and my heart dropped, my blood pressure rose to astronomical heights, and anger took control.
There was James a floor tile in one hand and apile of tiles beside him. He had discovered the tiles could be pulled up, one by one until he revealed most of the underlying concrete foundation. I believe my parents could hear my comments back in the USA as I informed James what he was doing was wrong, with a capital “W!” I think that’s when my hair turned gray.
I was not a shining example of patience and understanding. Roy and I had worked for weeks, late at night, between shifts, on hands and knees, to carefully install the one thousand, two hundred and twenty-one tiles. Each tile was hand sculptured to fit the form of the house. My children still remember that night. I’m sure our former neighbors still remember that night.
When Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit one critical word is patience. This fruit is preceded in the list by love, joy, and peace. At that moment, looking at the destruction of my hard labor, I doubt I experienced any of the other fruits much less patience with my children. Until that moment I thought things were in order.
Our home was occupied, pictures on the walls, children playing in their new rooms, friends visiting. It took only a few seconds to realize my calm was easily shattered by the world around me. I was looking at the horizontal, the work “I” had done, not at God. “I” didn’t experience the fruit of the spirit because “I” tried to control things, instead of allowing God control.
I think my children have long since forgiven my outburst but I doubt they will ever forget that evening. Last time I mentioned it to the children it was remembered with humor and laughter. It was not the first nor the last outburst of my temper. Many times I’ve had to apologize and ask their forgiveness, not something parents enjoy doing but necessary. I also prayed for patience, joy, peace, and joy.
As Christians this is the way things work. When our eyes are fixed on the world around us we fail. When we see our accomplishments as the fruit of our own strength and our own hands we are blinded by our worldly hearts. It’s only when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we can experience the fruit of the spirit at work in our lives.
In the fruit of the spirit we experience peace and joy when the world around us appears chaotic and hopeless. As we experience the fruit of the spirit it allows us to demonstrate patience when things go against our nature. It’s only when we seek God that we may walk through events, like having our hard work destroyed, without permitting the old sin nature to have its way.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to close our physical eyes occasionally to allow our spiritual eyesight to once again find the object of our longing, Jesus Christ. We can then open our physical eyes with the assurance that what we see is nothing compared to the wondrous glory we will witness for eternity. Maybe next time I might consider using contact cement.