But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24
How often have we as Christians recited the fruits of the Spirit, mindlessly rattling off the list found in Galatians? For me, reading these verses recalls memories of munching animal crackers during children’s church programs as we recited the list. Because I am so familiar with these verses, it is easy for me to lose sight of the fact that with each fruit of the Spirit comes a powerful gift and promise. God’s Spirit provides love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—powerful gifts that help us break some of the most difficult boundaries we may encounter in life.
At the Joni and Friend’s Murrieta Family Retreat this summer, two Cause 4 Life interns discovered the simple power of the fruits of the Spirit that broke through seemingly unconquerable barriers.
Kait Gregory and Kiana Phillips were among the many retreat volunteers who anxiously waited to be paired with a camper affected by disability for the week. Though they were nervous for what the week might hold, they were excited to delve into disability ministry and see what God had in store for them.
When they met their camper, Ben, Kait and Kiana quickly realized they would have their hands full with their rambunctious nine-year-old camper.
Ben proved to be not only a playful little boy but also mischievous. Within the first day of camp, Ben grabbed anything in sight and ate half a dozen objects. Not only did Ben grab whatever caught his attention, he also had a tendency to dash away without a moment’s notice. On top of the challenging behaviors Ben exhibited, he was also considered preverbal, meaning he didn’t communicate as fully as a typical 9-year-old might. As Kait and Kiana served and loved this sweet little boy, it didn’t take long for them to feel mental and physical exhaustion.
As the week progressed, Kait and Kiana were challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. No matter how gentle they were, they did not feel like they were breaking through to Ben.
“I was super discouraged,” Kait relayed. “I felt like I was going to go home really discouraged.”
“I think I was more concerned and fearful of how not to respond to his exhibited behaviors,” Kiana said. “He would hit, bite, scratch, or pull our hair and having the patience to respond to that in a loving and gentle and kind way was a challenge because discipline is not an attitude you can have with disability.”
As the days went on, Kait and Kiana felt more and more disheartened and wondered how they could best share God’s love with Ben. Each day, they submitted their fears and struggles to the Lord, trusting that somehow, He would help them break through to Ben.
Check back on Monday for Part 2 of this blog.
Grace Shaffer is currently serving as an intern with the Joni and Friends Cause4Life internship program. She is passionate about capturing people’s stories and is completing a writing degree at Pensacola Christian College while drinking copious amounts of coffee.