Betty Ramsey won the first prize for her tulips year after frustrating year.
Lucy Ricardo decided this was the year to change that tradition. She tended her garden carefully and begged her husband to mow the lawn before the judges came by to evaluate her flower-bed.
He promised to do it, but quit halfway through, playing hookie so he could go to a baseball game instead.
Inevitably, Lucy cranked the lawnmower up with her friend Ethel’s help. Then she hopped on and zoomed across the yard, totally unable to stop, and ultimately mowing most of the state of Connecticut (it seemed). The worst part is that she also mowed over Betty Ramsey’s prize flowers.
Of course Lucy wanted to win that blue ribbon for her garden, but not by knocking off the heads of Betty’s tulips. What would Betty Ramsey think?
So, in a classic “Lucy” brainstorm, she planted wax flowers in Betty’s garden, hoping to fool Betty and the judges.
Then when her husband Ricky sauntered in after the baseball game, Lucy sent him outside to finish mowing the lawn. Since it was so dark, though, he couldn’t see well enough to avoid Lucy’s own precious flower bed.
His solution? Plant wax tulips to replace Lucy’s ruined flowers!
It’s one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes and the ending is unsurprising. The problem with wax flowers in the heat of the day is that they melt into a messy puddle of mush. That’s what the judges found in Betty and Lucy’s gardens, earning them both a disqualification instead of a blue ribbon.
Wax fruit has the same weakness as wax flowers. It may be deceptively shiny, catching the light and gleaming in an appetizing way. The apples may be deeply red and the oranges the color of the sun. They may be shaped to perfection, each grape a perfect juicy-looking sphere.
But in the end, it’s still fake. It can’t hold together in heat and one mouthful would send you spitting and gagging to the nearest glass of water.
Fake flowers for Lucy, fake fruit for us—it’s the appeal of the moment and the sacrificing of what’s genuine for what’s currently convenient.
Paul tells us exactly what real fruit looks like, the kind that grows when we’re abiding in the One True Vine:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23b).
Everywhere I turn, I learn about this fruit. I started a new Bible study–on the fruit of the Spirit. I picked up a book from the church library on this same fruit. It’s in the devotionals I read and the lessons that I hear.
It’s tempting then, since this fruit matters so much, to skip to growth and maturity without the process. How can I have the fruit without the tending and pruning and remaining in the vine?
Can I discipline myself into patience? Can I watch my tongue closely enough to constitute gentleness?
Is this fruit that I can fake with my own personal strength and resources or because I’m generally a nice person?
In her devotional, Diamonds in the Dust, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:
It’s impossible to manufacture the fruit of the Spirit …you can paint a veneer of joy and put up a facade of self-control, but invariably you will be found out. You can only deceive yourself and others for so long with false love and plastic peace (p. 257).
Yes, eventually the heat of life melts the fake fruit you’ve tried to attach to the Vine with super-glue and wire.
The problem, as the devotional notes, is that when we try to fake our own life fruit, we do it by skipping to the end result. God, however, “grows genuine fruit in the opposite order” (Joni Eareckson Tada 257). His emphasis is on planting His Word in us and growing our relationship with Him.
This fruit of the Spirit must be supernatural makeup in order to be genuine. No amount of “nice girl” qualities can fake the love, kindness, goodness and gentleness of God’s Spirit within us.
And we might try to mosey along on our own good manners and general likeability for a while, passing off our own character traits as holy fruit. But we’ll ultimately melt into a puddle of wax mush.
Scripture tells us, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). So, don’t pursue blue-ribbon fruit; focus on abiding in Him.
It’s not patience we seek, it’s Jesus. It’s not faithfulness we ask for; it’s the Holy Spirit alive and real in our lives. As we feed on the Vine and refuse to disconnect regardless of life, busyness, circumstances and other temptations, God will grow the fruit in us, genuine Spirit fruit, lasting and beautiful, a testimony not to us, but to the Vine itself.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King