When her pastor instructed the congregation to complete a Spiritual Fruit survey for each family member Donna cringed. She glanced at Adam, hoping he would dismiss the idea, or forget.
Lunch passed without mention of it, but afterward Adam appeared and gave each boy four sheets of paper.
“What’s this?” Aaron looked and moaned. “Dad…we’re not really doing this, are we?”
Adam nodded. “Each characteristic of the Fruit o the Spirit is listed. You’ve got one for each family member. Put their name on it, not yours. Be honest. We want to help each other.” He gave four sheets to Donna.
“I’m going to really help Rog.” Caleb threw a pillow at his brother.
“And I’ll help you kiss the cat litter box!” Roger stuck his tongue out and then began the survey.
Donna cringed again as she tallied her results. “Oh, Adam! I scored a four on peace! This is how ya’ll see me?”
She relayed the sad episode to her running partner the next morning. “It’s awful! I try so hard, but all my family sees is a stressed out lunatic!”
“Three boys between 10 and 14 could stress anyone.” Jackie smiled sympathetically at her friend.
“But I don’t want them to think of me like that! I used to be peaceful, Jackie! Remember? And I want my kids to see me as a strong Christian, not a wishy-washy loon!”
Jackie slowed and began to run in place, keeping her muscles warm. Donna followed suit. “Remember when we first started running again? Remember how hard it was? Our first week almost put me in the ER!”
Donna laughed. “Me, too!”
“We were track stars in high school, Donna, but there we were, huffing and puffing like two old ladies.”
“We’d had babies!”
“We’d had babies, we got older and we let ourselves get out of shape. We had to make running a priority and then plan n how to get back in shape. It took work and dedication to regain what we’d lost.”
Donna nodded. “It sure did.”
Jackie started jogging again. “The same is true with the fruits of the Spirit. You still had the ability to run; you’d just let it slide. And you still have the capacity for God’s peace. You just have to train to get it back.”
Donna thought of the conversation all that night and into the next morning. By noon she had pulled out her training journal from when she started running with Jackie and read through it, taking notes and making application to her spiritual life. She reread what she’d written.
“1. Stretch to prepare and avoid injury.” Donna looked up all the verses she could find about personal peace, writing them on the bathroom mirror posting them o the refrigerator, the steering wheel of the car. She read them everyday for a week.
“2. Train with a group.”
She emailed her mother, grandmother and best friend to tell tem about her training goals. “Please pray for me and hold me accountable. Warn me if you see signs of stress creeping in.”
“3. Pace yourself.” Donna decided not to expect a perfect transformation. She knew she’d have bad days, but determined
not to lose heart or become discouraged—at least not for very long at a time.
“4. Keep a workout journal.” Donna purchased a notebook and wrote her goals and favorite ‘peace’ verses on the first page. She recorded her successes and prayers over the next few weeks, drawing strength from her entries. It gave her a place to record her prayers and God’s answers.
“5. Celebrate your finish”. After six months Donna invited her family and prayer partners out to dinner. She listened to the boys quip back and forth, feeling the need to intervene in their sport only once. She could tell how much more relaxed the entire family functioned.
Adam looked at her, smiled and squeezed her hand. “I’m proud of you.”
“Me, too, Mom!” Caleb hugged her arm. “You say you did this training thing?”
“Do you think it’ll work with self-control? That was my low score.”
“I think,” Donna tousled his hair, “that it’ll work for anything—especially if God is in the middle of it.”
“You mean if He’s the trainer, right, Mom?”
But there was one more item on her list; the final, most important step. “Keep moving” it read. Donna knew that she would have to stay in spiritual shape to maintain all that she’d worked for.
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