22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22-23 ESV
This past month we took a group of men from our church backpacking in New Mexico. We hiked a route that I have done with a number of groups in the past, but this year was very different because of extremely high levels of snowfall this past winter. When we got to our high camp at around 11,000 ft. we had 3 people showing signs of Acute Mountain Sickness due to the high elevation. On our summit attempt the next day, we lost the trail and got turned around for about 30 minutes and then had to turn back due to hip deep snow drifts. We hiked a total of less than a mile in over three hours. All of these factors lead to tension and unease in the group; personalities clashed and tempers flared. After spending the afternoon in rest, renewal, and time with God, the whole group was in much better spirits. We awoke the next morning fully rested and recuperated and made our way down the mountain. Our final night there was confession and reconciliation for some of the things that were said and done in the tense moments.
One of the things that I love about the wilderness experiences we have the privilege of facilitating is how they stretch and test people. When you’re hot, sweaty, tired, stressed, and extremely fatigued, what’s inside tends to spill out. This often lends itself to powerful times of reflection and spiritual growth.
In the book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul talks about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Those who are controlled by the flesh will have a life mission that is characterized by the works of the flesh. These works include impurity, idolatry, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions and envy to name a few. I for one have struggled with or continue to struggle with most of things on this list, as do most Christ followers. For me these things tend to bubble up when I’m most stressed and out of my comfort zone. Even though I struggle with the works of the flesh, they do not characterize my life mission.
The apostle Paul goes on to say that those who walk in the Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit. The crux of daily life for the follower of Jesus is choosing to walk in the Spirit moment by moment and choosing not to follow the flesh. It’s important to remember that this fruit is not something we produce; it is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Our part is obedience. I’m learning more and more that walking in the Spirit takes humility, accountability, a willingness to admit when I’m wrong, and close knit community with other Christ followers. It is such a joy to be a part of a ministry and a church body that models both vulnerability and accountability. We don’t always get it right, but when we mess up there is grace and restoration available. May you choose daily to walk in the Spirit and may your life mission be characterized by His fruit.