Reflecting the Fruit of the Spirit in Motherhood
Can you name the Fruit of the Spirit? Do you sing a Sunday school jingle to remember them all?
I do. And I taught it to my kids.
As I was explaining each trait to my kids, I was struck with the realization that I don’t practice them myself.
Unlike learning to ride a bike, the fruit of the Spirit is not an achievement but a continuous process. An unending journey this side of heaven.
I started wondering: as a mom, what does it practically look like to bear the fruit of the Spirit?
And while we’re thinking about it— why and how do we reflect these traits?
The answers to these last two questions reveal our motivation and our Source.
In Jerry Bridges’ book The Fruitful Life he says this, “Devotion to God is the only acceptable motive for actions that are pleasing to God.”
Why do we show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? To check a box? To appear a certain way to our friends or other moms?
Or do we do it because we gaze upon the holiness and sacrifice of our loving God and desire to be more like Him?
Devotion to God is a life centered on His Person, a life in full submission to His will. Obedience predicated on love and reverence.
Now we may be rightly motivated, but how can we ever achieve this?
It’s called the fruit of the Spirit because it is produced by the Spirit at work in our lives.
We need help.
Bridges says, “Our source of power is in the risen Christ, as we stay connected to Him by beholding Him in His Word and depending on Him in prayer.”
We become loving because God is love. We become patient because God is patient. We become faithful because God is faithful.
We are image-bearers and we are called to reflect His character. And thank God, He provided us a way to do it; Himself!
So let’s get real about what fruitful motherhood looks like.
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Practical Examples of the Fruit of the Spirit in Motherhood
When I think of love I think of sacrifice. Giving up our own desires and needs for someone else.
As moms, we are no stranger to sacrifice. Not only do we sacrifice our bodies when we carry our children in our wombs, but we sacrifice our finances, our time, our hot meals, our clean house, our personal hygiene. Our arms when we have to push four kids on the swings. Again.
I am selfish. Marriage exposed that. And then I had kids and quite a bit more light was shed on that fun bit of myself.
Instead of seeing my children as the small wonders that they are, my selfishness can cause me to view them as inconveniences or annoyances.
This should not be.
Christ showed us perfect, un-begrudging service and sacrifice. To bear love, I must follow His example. I need to serve my kids, trusting that God will provide the sustenance for what I feel like I’m losing.
At the heart of happiness or joy is satisfaction.
So why don’t we always feel happy? What is stealing our joy?
I think of four things: sin, discontentment, criticism, and resentment.
The first is self-explanatory: our sin separates us from God, the source of our joy.
The other three are a moody little party of feelings.
Have you heard of mom guilt? It’s what we feel when we compare ourselves to other moms (Ugh…on the regular!)
Mom guilt breeds insecurity which leads to criticism; bringing others down to make ourselves feel better. It leads to discontentment and resentment; our life isn’t the way we want it; we want what others have.
Confessing our sins, seeing other moms as image-bearers, praying for them instead of criticizing them, and having a heart of gratitude are all ways we can combat those four pesky joy-stealers!
Related: 5 Ways to Find Hope in Your Hardship
When we bear the fruit of joy we are testifying to our satisfaction in Christ. Is He enough for you?
Peace surpasses understanding. And in a fighting and hurting world, it’s not logical.
I never worry about my kids. Said no one. Ever.
Let me count the ways. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Future friends. Future spouse. Peer pressure, betrayal, heartache. Car accidents, drownings. Injuries from my son who has a cannon for an arm and a lot of plastic ammo lying around.
Social media and all its fun side effects.
Related: He Knows my Name
The ‘what ifs’ can pile up into mountains the size of Everest.
But anxiety and fear do not come from a heart that is trusting in God’s love and sovereignty.
I think the best way to grow peace in our lives is a whole lot of prayer.
Sometimes we think “just praying” is the absolute bare minimum we can do for our kids. But if you believe that, your view of God is pretty small.
The author of lies would like to sow seeds of distrust between us and our Lord. Resist and be drawn closer to the One who holds the world tenderly.
I’ve noticed that with my third and fourth kids, who happen to be twin boys, my threshold for patience in a day has diminished a smidge bit.
Everyone needs me and all the things RIGHT NOW! All the time. My tone of voice when I respond to these constant requests is a far cry from patience.
But patience is forbearance. Endurance. Longsuffering. Humility.
I look at all the times in the Bible God shows patience to His people. His people who are disobedient and disrespectful. He was patient, not because they deserved it but because He loved them.
I have sinful, rebellious children who reject my authority and ignore my rules and eat all my snacks.
But by golly I love those little people! And in humility I need to show patience in endurance, not because they deserve it, but because I love them and I am obeying the commands of my own Father.
Kindness and Goodness
These two go hand in hand. Kindness is the disposition and sincere interest in others while goodness is the deliberate actions taken to help others.
“Choose kindness”— do you wear the t-shirts? Being kind is easy when it’s appreciated, but what about when it’s not?
What about when you take your kids to an amusement park and do literally all of things… except the one thing they apparently wanted more than anything in their entire lives? And a meltdown ensues; including the huge pile ice cream they’re crying into.
Big and little things we do for our kids often go unnoticed, unappreciated, or ruined. And our reaction is “Never. Again.”
But God has prepared good works for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
That means where we are right now are opportunities to do good. And a lot of times we don’t feel like we’re accomplishing what we want to as we do them, but we act in faith.
We are kind and we are good without the expectation of reciprocity or seeing the fruit of our labor. We are not earning our kids’ favor, we are acting in obedience, out of devotion to God.
Stefanie Boyles wrote in her book Gospel-Centered Motherhood: “Success is faithfulness to what God has placed before us.”
Faithfulness is devotion, loyalty, constancy, dependability.
As moms we can sometimes feel like our lives are too small. Insignificant.
But we are raising eternal souls and that is no small thing. We can bear faithfulness in motherhood when we press on, dutifully planting seeds and trusting God with the outcome. Showing up everyday where God has us.
It’s exemplifying faithfulness to our kids; that even when they’re faithless, we are faithful. We point them to the assurance of Christ.
Faithfulness is not conditional. We grow in this when we wake up every day and give our devotion to the Lord, regardless of our circumstances, putting Him in the right place of authority of our lives.
Sometimes my kids run away from me. When we’re playing. Or… when they’re naughty.
Kids know when to run away from the wrath of Mom!
So we must consider what our discipline looks like. I’ve disciplined in anger and I’ve had to come back and ask for forgiveness.
I don’t want my children to be afraid of me or to feel like their bad choices turn me away from them. Are my kids at rest with me? Do my kids feel free to express their opinions to me? Am I reasonable or inflexible?
Gentleness as a mom does not include belittling or humiliating our kids or making them feel unworthy of our attention or love. It looks like reasoning, listening, calm assertiveness, and apologies.
We are a people of little restraint. We can get out of control in so many ways; our thoughts, our words, our actions. Our bag of chips and stacks of Oreos. Our Amazon accounts. Our Netflix shows. Our browser history. The list is endless.
But there is hope for us yet. If God calls us to be self-controlled, then there is a way!
Sin is rooted in unhealthy thought patterns. Our sinful thoughts influence our emotions and behaviors and can create idols. This could be the way I view my kids; it could be resentment; it could be a desire for self-fulfillment.
We can become controlled by our idols, our sinful and unmet desires.
Self-control is self-denial.
That is the theme of the fruit of the Spirit.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness all require us to sacrifice. We may sacrifice recognition, our sense of justice, our time and resources, or the picture of how we want our day or our life or our family to look.
And by “may” I mean will.
We deny ourselves and put others first. We pick up our cross and we follow Christ.
So let’s teach our kids the jingles.
But then show them the Fruit of the Spirit. In our words, our actions, our tone, our discipline.
And pray. A lot. Staying connected to our Source and trusting He is at work in our families for His glory.
Read more from Brittany’s Fruitful Motherhood series here.
Such a thorough explanation of the fruits of the Spirit! I like how you differentiated kindness and goodness. “These two go hand in hand. Kindness is the disposition and sincere interest in others, while goodness is the deliberate actions taken to help others. “