In his book, Hometown Tales, Quaker pastor Philip Gulley discusses two ways to measure growth. The first is a traditional method which has been used by parents for eons. Once a year, you stand the kids up next to a wall in their stocking feet and draw a line on the wall to measure the past year’s growth. Gulley’s parents measured him that way for years, and he measured his sons that way too.
The other method? Well, that’s a very different story. Now Gulley measures his own “growth in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). “Some days I measure up,” he says and “some days I don’t. Still,” he adds, “stretching ourselves against this wall of spiritual fruit and taking our measure is an important exercise and one we ought to continue.”
The fruits of the spirit are treasures that Gulley says “never lose their value.” That’s great, but how do you measure those fruits? Are they, perhaps, also the components of happiness?
Sonya Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor and author of The How of Happiness, was asked in an AARP article what she thought the biggest misconception about happiness is. She replied, “That it’s all about pleasure and feeling good. Happiness is a lot more than that. It’s about engagement and meaning and progressing toward your goals.” To me, that sounds a lot like Gulley’s fruits of the spirit yardstick—a way to measure the meaning of our lives. (Did you notice that neither Gulley nor Lyubomirsky mentioned money?)
Most of the reading I do is heavy, information-packed, thought-provoking material that makes me think and helps me set goals, as well as formalize action items that support my efforts to make a difference in the world. However, when I’m feeling worn out by the cares of the world, I turn to the words of someone like Gulley. He is a storyteller, and I read his stories to restore my faith in humanity. In a few short paragraphs, he illustrates the fruits of the spirit played out in the lives of average folks. His characters are flawed and wonderful, just like you and me. His writing is a window on reality that makes me laugh out loud and challenges me to measure myself by his fruits of the spirit yardstick. Some days I measure up; some days I don’t.
How about you? What’s your measure on that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control yardstick?