We continued our nine month study on the Fruits of the Spirit. Our focus for September is the fruit of Self-Control. This is the last of the nine fruits listed in Galatians 5. It is the fruit that allows all other fruits to be seen in our lives. When we allow self control to grow in us, others will experience us as loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, and gentle. Self control can be understood as a sensitivity to Love that knows when and how to appropriately respond (vs react) to any person or circumstance. In our lifetime we will never respond appropriately and lovingly 100% of the time.
This week Sean talked about how biblical self control is not the same as what our culture commonly calls self control. Culture tells us we need self control to manage our behavior. Usually the behaviors we want to change or control have some type of negative connotation to them and our perceived self worth (eating, drinking, gambling or spending too much, being lazy, gossiping, etc). Culture tells us self control is something we can "muster up" on our own. If we have a strong enough self will, culture tells us that we can create enough self control to change these behaviors. While this is true on one hand, we can manufacture a sort of self control that allows us to change many behaviors. However, on the other hand this change or control is often short lived. Additionally, once we get one area "under control," some other "out of control area" pops up. It is a continuous, tiring cycle of mustering up self control, applying it, and finding another, or the same issue cropping up again (see Romans 7:19)
The problem is that we are addressing the symptom rather than the root cause. With Biblical self control, the root cause is something the Spirit can heal and thereby create true self control in us. That is why it is called a fruit (a result) of the the Spirit-- we can not "muster" it up on our own and have it have lasting result or impact. That said, it isn't that we don't have a part in allowing the Spirit to grow self control in us.
Our part is to submit to God's work in us. And that is a difficult and courageous task to undertake. It requires that when we unconsciously go for that ice cream, drink, drug, poker chip, magazine, credit card, piece of gossip, or "zone out" with a screen or social media- we stop, recognize that God is with us in the moment, and ask ourselves some honest questions? We ask questions that help us become aware of what is happening internally in our spirit and heart. Questions like: Why am I doing this? What am I feeling? What am I avoiding, afraid of or believing about myself?
As we become aware and open up to God in our moments of lack of self control, those moments actually become our blessing rather than our curse. Our lack of self control becomes a conduit that the Spirit uses to heal the root causes of our negative behaviors and "lack of self control". Many of these "roots" (old family wounds, betrayals of others, betrayals of our own values, abuse etc.) hurt when they are exposed and healed. That is why it is hard and courageous work to cooperate with the Spirit to grow self control in us. However, when we do the work of becoming aware, opening to God and asking the tough questions, we allow those root causes to be healed. Over time as our "roots" are healed. We find that we no longer unconsciously "react" out of our old wounds but rather "respond" appropriately to people and circumstances in our life. Thus true self control- which we could never muster in ourselves- is birthed in us by the Spirit and reveals God to all (ourselves included).
By Babs May-Clark