“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:1–8 NLT)
When we talk about the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5, we often forget this list is by no means exhaustive. Paul was not attempting to put together a complete checklist of virtues or characteristics of everything you should display when walking in the Spirit. There are a host of virtues not included in Galatians 5 that are nonetheless fruit of the Spirit; mercy, forgiveness, thankfulness, gratitude, hospitality, encouragement, and humility are all evidence of a life infused with the Holy Spirit.
Though the nine virtues listed by Paul are what we will be focusing on during this Lenten season, we would do well to remember there are other fruit the Holy Spirit is working to cultivate in our souls and our lives. We can easily fall victim to being so focused on what we know and are familiar with that we ignore what is less familiar or even uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the Father is the gardener who prunes the branches. This means he removes those who do not produce fruit, but it also means he trims out the bad on each individual branch to allow for the good to flourish. It behooves us to work alongside him to cultivate the soil of our soul so these virtues of the Spirit might manifest in our lives.
Because we are all uniquely created individuals, even though the Holy Spirit is the source of all of good fruit, each of us need to put in different amounts of work for each virtue. Where one person might struggle with humility but find great joy in working through what it means to sow the seeds of gentleness, another might find humility to be more natural and patience to be difficult. Some virtues simply come more easily, just as certain plants grow more naturally in different soils and climates. This does not mean the spiritual fruit that grows naturally in our lives doesn’t need to be cultivated; it certainly does! We must simply be mindful not to focus only on the easier growth at the expense of the more difficult.
Make a list of the spiritual fruit you are more adept at cultivating in your soul. Then make another list of the fruit you struggle the most with. Use Galatians 5:22–23 as your starting point, then invite the Holy Spirit to indicate other virtues to add to either list. Look for any common threads running through the characteristics within each list. What does this tell you about how you can best cultivate the soil of your soul to allow the Holy Spirit even greater authority in your life?