Growing up in a Christian home my whole life, self-control was not a topic lost on me. As a kid I had fruit of the spirit bracelets and we sang songs and learned rhymes and colored pictures with grapes that had the word “self-control” scribbled over it. It really helped us grasp it. As I got older, this term became the foundation for youth group sermons on how to avoid peer pressure. Sex, drugs, alcohol? No problem. Just use self control! It has only been in the last few years that I have really understood what the intended meaning of self-control as a fruit of the spirit really means.
A lot of my realization has come from watching my mama my whole life. I’ve often said she has a quiet strength about her. But the truth is, it’s more than that. She has had deeper hurts than I can imagine. Her heart has been broken, her confidence toyed with, her health shaken, her father taken too early and too many babies gone before she got to hold them. Where so many people would take the opportunity to fall apart, my mom chose to hold it together. She chose strength. She chose grace. She chose faith.
A few years ago I fell victim to my emotions. I bought into the lie the world tells us that it’s freeing to let ourselves feel so deeply, that it is out of our hands how we feel about something. I let myself feel angry towards the whole world, hurt by things that couldn’t be changed, and really just sad for myself. I cried more than I’d like to admit over all kinds of things, some hard, most not. I thought it was just who I was, I was a crier. I was upset. I was hurt. And that couldn’t be changed. Let me tell you, what the world told me would make me feel better, my load lighter and my relationships deeper, did not. It left me feeling deflated, emotionally exhausted, guilty and alone.
My mom had been praying for me and with me often. She raised me to understand that I could change a situation with my attitude. She showed me, time and time again, that when life gets hard it’s okay to get upset but to not let ourselves stay upset. She saw the wreck I was making of myself and met me there to tell me, it was time to change things. I told her I couldn’t. I believed, I couldn’t. Then suddenly one day the Lord opened my eyes to the Fruit of the Spirit. It had nothing to do with literal fruit like my drawings from my childhood. It was so much more valuable than just resisting peer pressure as I remembered from my youth group days. Self-control could be applied to my thoughts, my conversations, my attitude, my emotions. Fruits of the Spirit are products of knowing and abiding with the Holy Spirit. If we rely on Him, then we will produce those qualities.
The Bible says the devil desires to steal, kill and destroy. If he can steal our joy, our hope, our relationships, how quickly we fall. And what better way to do that than to infect our thoughts? We need to take the reigns. As women, our brains are wired to think 50 million different things at any given moment. If we’re not careful, we can let in the thoughts of insecurity, doubt, hopelessness creep in and take control. We can lose faith in our husbands, our selves, our God, all because of our thoughts. We need to have self-control over our thoughts. We need to have self-control over our attitudes. We need to have self-control over our emotions. How do we that? Prayer, lots of it. Invest in ourselves by forming a foundation in scripture. Limit social media. Pay attention to what we watch, listen to, and read. Look at our circle, are the people around us sitting in the trenches, or telling us it’s okay to come out and handing us a ladder?
I am so grateful that my mom instilled in me that I am capable of control because of Him. And when I lost sight of that, she brought me right back to His feet. Her words are rooted in His and I am forever thankful for that. It’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to feel, but it’s not okay to dwell there.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Mama knows best, y’all. She really does.