Joyful January

As 2014 came to a close, my daughter and I had been studying the fruits of the Spirit. We had begun the Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum for Toddlers, and while it was fun to sing the Fruit of the Spirit Song (which I’ve included at the end of this post so that you can also get it stuck in your head for weeks!), learn about fruits and colors, and read Galatians 5:22-23 every night until she had memorized it, I realized that I was learning too.

There are so many fruits of the Spirit that a mother of a “spirited” preschooler needs, like gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, to name a few. Now I’m not saying it’s bad to focus on these, but I tended to focus on them just to survive. I would begin the day and within an hour or two of consistently unpredictable and disobedient behavior from my daughter, all the self-control, patience, kindness and gentleness was nowhere to be found in my heart and I would explode (let’s not even talk about the days where there was no nap!).

I would get so frustrated because I felt like I was trying so hard to hold onto these virtues, but there was just so much anger and frustration in my heart that if those virtues were in me when I woke up in the morning, they were just a weak facade covering the selfishness and anger underneath.

Obviously, rooting out personal sin is a journey all Christians are on and will be on all of our earthly lives, but one day as I was reading Galatians 5:22-23 with her, I was struck by the fruits of the Spirit I tend to gloss over and one of them was joy. ‘Joy’ is one of those words I probably use once a year, mainly at Christmas and usually only in Christmas songs like Joy to the World.

I am quite certain that no one who knows me would call me “joyful” (my husband agreed when I asked) but it seems to me one of the fruits of the Spirit that is most important to have because it, like love and peace, directs our perception of the world to be God-focused and gives us a solid foundation to stand on no matter our life circumstances.

To me, it almost seems like love, joy and peace are the fruits that form the foundation for our character and then the others, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, are built upon that foundation. With love at the core of our hearts, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness are an expression of that love; peace in our souls makes self-control possible and joy makes patience and goodness (not perfection, which I often try to confuse with goodness!) attainable.

For the month of January, I’m going to be focusing on cultivating joy in my heart with the help of the Holy Spirit, and I hope you will find it encouraging too! Let’s begin this New Year by developing a joyful spirit that serves as an anchor for our soul when life gives us lots to be joyful about and even when it doesn’t.