You can fly?
“Watch me everybody, I can fly!” grins my 2-year-old son, beaming with confidence as he launches into a hearty jump, which, as usual, is followed by a crash, an injury, and a scream. My older son barely takes notice. Ever the practical child, he knew how that story would end. Every fool with a brain knows you can't fly without wings, or at least superpowers of some kind. Yet some insist on trying. Repeatedly.
Screaming is not at all unusual in our chaotic home. If the problem is not an injury, it is a sibling squabble or power struggle of some sort. There may be fifty toys scattered across the yard, but two children have their hearts set on the very same one, and they attempt to work it out with screaming and violence. Or perhaps someone looked at someone else the wrong way, or someone won't stop singing the same song over and over, or someone got there first.
Far more often than I care to admit, I address these situations with more yelling. “Kids! Didn't we just talk about getting along? Now get back outside and be kind to each other!" They scowl and walk away, and attempt to settle their squabbles more quietly, at least for the next ten minutes. I rarely get lunch finished or laundry put away before they are right back at it again. The cycle repeats, adding more frustration each time, until finally bedtime arrives, and we end the day in exhaustion and ugliness.
When the fog of selfishness clears, sometimes I remember to go to the Lord in prayer. I beg the Lord for the strength and patience to make it through the next day, knowing that is something only He can provide. As I ask Him for my daily bread, it occurs to me that my impatient mommy comments are akin to asking my children to fly with no wings. “Get along!” I holler, as if they could simply dig deep enough into their tiny selfish hearts to discover love and goodwill towards their siblings. They try, with great zeal at times, and fail every day, as do I.
There are some days when my own “old man” is simply too strong for me, and I see those moments of bickering as a personal insult and a rude interruption of my time, and my own selfishness merely adds to the storm of sin already brewing. There are days when I would like to have those fruits of the Spirit, but trying to come up with anything that resembles “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” is like trying to produce x-ray vision or grow wings. I just do not have it in me.
I do not have it in me. Why does that still come as a surprise to me, just like the hard floor surprises my son every single time he tries to fly? Every week I stand with the church and confess that my works are “filthy rags,” and that my heart is "sinful and unclean." Scripture and experience verify this. My Baptismal certificate did not come attached to a backpack full of holiness!
We simply cannot bear fruit using our own paltry resources. Of course, we were never commanded to do so. We have a Helper, a Loving Savior, who tenderly invites us to abide in Him. On those days when we once again find ourselves on the floor with an injury, wondering why our own superpowers have failed, we hear His gentle reminder:
I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.
( John 15:5, ESV)