I’ve been working on a book on the fruit of the Spirit since January and am discovering that writing is an intensely sanctifying task. I have been challenged not by the writing of this book but by the living of it. With each chapter, I am confronted with beautiful truth from scripture and ugly shortcomings in myself. With my chapter on love, for instance, I had to seriously reckon with how I treat people, in public and in private. In my chapter on joy, I was forced to tearfully consider whether I am working to cultivate joy or merely giving in to discontent.
Now, as I work on my third chapter, “Peace,” I find myself troubled by constant anxiety. Physiologically, even, I feel my heart racing faster than it did before. I am generally a type-A personality and worry has always been one of my besetting struggles, but I cannot help feeling that even my typical anxiousness has been amplified during the past week of writing. I fully realize the irony and am heartily embarrassed. Surely, if I am writing a book on the fruit of the Spirit, I should exemplify these fruits better, right? At the same time, though, I am painfully thankful for the way in which this project is pruning me. It is aggravating my natural tendencies and purging me of them, it seems, by fire.
And so, I am leaning into this season of anxiety—not as a deterrent from my work or an excuse to abandon it in favor of comfort, but as the very reason for my writing. If I am anxious, perhaps the best thing I can do is prayerfully research and write on peace. Even if the writing of this chapter evokes some anxiety, I must trust that it is part of my sanctification, bringing to light the things hidden within me and forcing me to deal with them directly.
Continuing this project is daunting not only because is writing a book a massive undertaking but because I expect that I will continue to be excruciatingly sanctified in the process. As I write on patience, I have no doubt that I will want to scream with impatience. As I write on kindness and gentleness, I bet my pride will threaten to infiltrate my words and harden them as arrows instead of encouragements. As I write on goodness, there is a solid chance I will throw up my hands and say, “this is fine” instead of seeking further excellence in my craft. I can only imagine in terror the temptations that will arise when I reach my final chapter, “Self-Control.”
But, as I faithfully and fearfully continue to write this book, I am discovering that each fruit of the Spirit provides the soil for the next one. Love gives way to joy, which provides peace, which offers patience, and so on. As I climb the purgatorial mountain of authorship, I can only hope the same will be true for my own sanctification and that each fruit will grow from the stem of the former.