22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
Our Lenten practice for today is self-control. Most of the Bible passages about self-control are directed toward controlling passions and lust. But self-control can encompass many aspects of our character. We learn to control our tempers. We refrain from gossip. We discipline ourselves in spiritual practices. We restrain ourselves from judging. We deepen in faith as we learn to control any undesirable qualities, which then enhances our good qualities such as patience, humility and perseverance.
Imagine if our self-control could be like holding the TV remote controller… We could turn up the volume on our words of encouragement and kindness. We could mute our negative or unkind thoughts. We could change the channels of our minds to fruitful and uplifting subjects. We could fast forward through the faults of others and disregard them completely. We could brighten our image with the radiant love of Christ. We could replay an idea or inspiration for a second consideration. Of course, we could turn ourselves off completely for rest and renewal.
My Word Thesaurus shows the antonym of self-control is self-indulgence. I appreciate that understanding. For if we were to become fanatical about our self-control, we might actually be indulging ourselves! I know that my striving for self-control could easily become less about growing in love for God, and more about my determination, pride and ego. Disciplines such as fasting, abstaining from something, or any Lenten practice could end up to be an aggravating test of my will, instead of a reassuring rest in God.
Self-control sounds like it’s all about us and our willpower, doesn’t it? Where is God in our self-control? Our Bible verse shows us. It isn’t really SELF control, but our self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit gives us this gift! It’s as if we are giving the Spirit the TV controller of our beings. All we need to do is surrender the controller. (I know… that’s not easy, is it?)
Our symbol for today is (of course) a TV remote controller. May it remind us that the Spirit will give us the gift of self-control when we open ourselves to receive it. May it bless us to know that the Spirit does not guide us “remotely”, but is present here within us! Let’s consider those self-indulgent qualities we would like to surrender to the Spirit today. What would you like the Spirit’s power to control?
Spirit of God,
Your presence gives me so many fruits- today I thank you for the gift of self-control. Help me to grow in discipline, restraint and self-control in all the ways I should, and to release any self-indulgent desires. I want to be a more perfect follower of Christ. Thank you for working within me as I continue on this journey. Amen.