Live From Your True Self (Friday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatian 5:22-23
“Exercise a bit more self-control,” I heard her yell to her 5 year old in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. He was walking down the aisle opening each door and slamming it shut. One by one he continued until he stepped right in front of me and slammed the door I had already opened.
The adorable little punk actually got me thinking about what self-control really is that day. Like a bolt of lightning, it hit me – Self-control is when our true selves, in Christ, are in control. Self-control isn’t a strict behavior-modification project – it’s simply living from our center.
Lent is often a season where the term self-control is thrown around. Having indulged on Fat Tuesday, we enter Ash Wednesday with a sense that this is the season to get right again – lose the weight, end the pornography addiction, clamp down on drinking. Someone once said to me, “Isn’t it convenient that God built-in a weight loss and sobriety plan into the liturgical calendar?”
Self-control, as I’ve seen it practiced, is often motivated by self-contempt. I don’t like myself. I’m too fat. I drink too much. I never exercise.
And so let me offer you a word – if this is your version of self-control, you are far afoot from anything St. Paul imagines.
Look at the words that surround it in the passage above - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. Do these sound like burdensome products of rigid, self-contemptuous discipline? Of course not. These are the heart-responses of one whose life is so utterly rooted in Jesus that gentleness simply emerges, kindness overflows, peace lingers.
The true self in Christ is our inner orchestral conductor, and the orchestra players are every part of us still fighting, still vying for control, still seeking transformation. Self-control is our joyful, gentle, and faithful work of inviting every anxious part of us, every angry part of us, every resistant part of us to relax its grip and find compassion in Christ.
Good and Gentle God, your sense of control is never demanding and always inviting, never forced but always gifted. Your compassion teaches us the way of compassion toward ourselves and every one we encounter. Cultivate gentle, faithful, and joyful self-control in me, I pray. Amen