“Move over! You’re in the speed lane!” My slight case of “road rage” fills my car’s interior. My fingers tap out my irritation on the steering wheel. “The light is green, ignoramus!” I inject at the next intersection. While waiting in line at the grocery store, I shake my head and seethe out my irritation beneath my breath, “This is the 10-items-or-less line! Can’t you count?” My words may be silent, or almost so, more from fear of embarrassment or confrontation than from compassion; and definitely not from any lingering holiness on my part. My pasted-on, plastic smile may not offend an errant brother or a hapless sister, but the sudden, almost pleasurable spurt of negative adrenaline does affect me. The same is true for passing on politically viperous e-mails. In time the corrosive acid eats away at my peace, my joy, and any delight that can be mine as God’s darling daughter.
The Message paraphrase of Luke 6:45 reminds me, “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. . . . It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”* Or as King James puts it: “For out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaketh.”
Frustrated with my lack of spiritual progress, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with His fruit of love, peace, joy, etc. In the silence of my personal time with God, I can almost hear His reply. Your impatience with others is a heart condition. Wormy apples rot from the inside out. You can’t expect spurts of anger to produce abundant joy. You can’t whine over the condition of your dwindling bank account and expect prosperity. You can’t fret over tomorrow and be filled with peace today.
And then the truth hits me. Secretly I enjoy the pleasurably negative release of adrenaline that comes when I express my frustration with others and with myself. While it is true that my prurient pleasure rots me from the inside out and destroys the very fruit I am praying to produce, no amount of grafting new branches onto this old diseased tree will do. The poison must be banished from within my heart before God can produce the healthy fruit in my life that He promises.
“Lord, am I asking for the impossible? How can I learn to zip it, not just before I say it, but before I think it as well? I detest the poisonous thoughts that prevent me from tasting and savoring the Spirit’s heavenly fruit. You promised never to leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), so I can be confident You will not uproot me from Your orchard. But something’s got to change—my heart. Change me from the inside out. Place the mind of Christ in me. Banish my negative thoughts before they are allowed to form. Teach me to live totally focused on You—from the inside out. Infuse my lips and my brain with an attitude of praise and a song of gratitude—24/7—despite the Friday afternoon traffic jam.
* Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.