Have you had the experience of having a book on your shelf for months, perhaps years, then feeling an urge to pick it up and finding it was just what you needed at that very moment? I have, many times, and The Fruitful Wife: Cultivating a Love Only God Can Produce by Hayley DiMarco was the latest instance. I first saw the book mentioned about a year ago at Carrie’s review, and, in fact, won a copy from her. But it had been sitting on my desk ever since.
Last year while reading through The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges with Challies’ “Reading Classics Together” group, I was convicted when Bridges pointed out that we spend a lot of time thinking about the negative character qualities we need forgiveness and victory over but not enough of the positive ones that we need to incorporate in our lives. The Bible tells us not only to forsake and flee some things but to follow after others, not only to put off the old man, but to put on the new. So, because of that prompting and because of the lack of it in my life, at the beginning of this year I thought I might do a word study on each aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. But I think I was daunted by the massive amount of material in the Bible on the first one, love, and I never got started on it. Some ladies at church even went through Beth Moore’s study on this earlier in the year, which I thought was timely and would be beneficial, but for various reasons I ended up not participating. Then I noticed again The Fruitful Wife book on my desk and had a light bulb moment. 🙂 Here would be my “guided tour” through the fruit of the Spirit.
That’s exactly what Hayley does: she explores each of the nine facets of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 and applies its truths particularly to marriage. In some ways I wish this had been called The Fruitful Woman rather than just focusing on wives, because its truths are applicable in any relationship, and single women might not read it. But I understand that that’s probably the main relationship where our true self in all its flaws is seen and where we tend to let down our guard, so seeking to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit here will overflow into other areas. I would recommend this to single ladies: not only would the study be beneficial, but it might be eye-opening in regard to marriage in general.
In the introduction, Hayley points out that the fruit of the Spirit does not come naturally: naturally we react from the flesh. But when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and His Spirit enters our hearts, then He begins to work to cultivate that fruit into our lives. We do still have our flesh, though, and still react too often from it: the flesh and the Spirit are in almost constant conflict. But by abiding in Christ and yielding to the Holy Spirit, more of His fruit can be cultivated in our lives. She also points out that growing fruit isn’t just for our own self-indulgence: fruit is meant to feed people. “Your fruit is meant to serve the hungry, to prove the goodness of the Spirit from which it comes to those who would partake of it” (p. 16).
Then each following chapter focuses on one of each of the nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit. I can’t summarize each one, but I’ll share a sampling of the lines that most spoke to me:
“Love is less about how I feel, but more about what I do. It isn’t about getting, but giving. It isn’t about reward, but sacrifice. And it isn’t about excitement, but endurance” (p. 20).
“We are able to love those the world finds difficult because of God’s great and all-encompassing love for us” (p. 22).
Love must first be understood as dependant on His love for us, and our response to love must be action, not reliance on feeling good” (p. 22).
Love is not about responding to how others make us feel, but about the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our souls” (p. 23).
“We have to understand that to rejoice is to do something, not to feel something” (p. 44).
It’s through the Spirit that you can believe against all odds, find joy against all belief, and trust against all doubt that He is who He says He is and that your life is firmly in His hands” (p. 51).
“Once I took my eyes off of my lack and put them on His abundance, I found the joy I was lacking” (p. 55).
“To sit and wait for joy to arrive without turning your mind to the things of Christ is like expecting the Holy Spirit to take 15 pounds off your body while [you are] sitting on the couch eating ice cream” (p. 57).
“Peace comes from an absence of conflict, not external conflict but internal conflict…Peace comes from your acceptance of suffering, not your exemption from it…It is a calm knowing and a restful understanding of the ways of a world held in the hand of a perfect God” (p. 68).
God desires my patience over my deadline, my calm heart over my hurried schedule, my genuine love over my preferred plans for those I love. When we see God over the difficulty, we find the patience over the impatience (p. 94).
“See any minor disruptions to our comfort as potentially essential to our righteousness and perfection” (p. 96).
“When we make our kindness about Him and not about us, then we will find it comes so much more easily” (p. 120).
“It isn’t the kindness we experience in response to the way others make us feel but the kindness we give in spite of the way others make us feel, that truly exhibits the fruit of the Spirit” (p. 120).
“It isn’t your obedience that makes you good, but His goodness and love that make you obedient, and it’s this goodness that reveals our faith in Him” (p. 126).
“Faithfulness isn’t just about not cheating on someone but about living a life of truth in our depths – truth that permeates all of our thoughts, words, and actions” (p. 148).
“Remember that while He walked this earth, Christ didn’t micromanage the lives of people around Him. He wasn’t controlling in His demands of their obedience. He didn’t run after the rich young ruler who wouldn’t sell all he had to follow Him. Jesus didn’t chase him down and demand compliance. If then, being so perfect and wise, He can allow people to fail, why do we believe it our job to micromanage the life of our husband? Can we trust God to speak to him, teach him, and lead him?” (p. 168).
“Women who want to involve themselves in other people’s business and attempt to fix them, change them, or somehow micromanage their lives are meddlesome, and this is not a character trait of gentleness. It is harshness that interjects itself into the lives of others uninvited, and so the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t serve this end. The busybody or meddlesome woman isn’t walking in quiet gentleness, but in the harshness of control and micromanaging. But gentleness allows God to do what God does best – take care of everything, be in control, and manage the lives of His children” (pp. 168-169.)
“We must never, through our resistance to the idea of self-control, make our confession a pillow for our sin” (p. 193).
“Only the presence of life can grow fruit” (p. 197).
“Even though a farmer works hard at tending his crops, he can’t do anything to create the fruit. Only the vine has in it what is necessary for life. And so it is for us. It is because of the vine that we can grow any fruit at all. So then, why was all the paper wasted in printing this book, if it all rests on the vine? Because there exists for man a role to play, and that isn’t a passive role whereby we sit quietly by as God changes us without our participation. It is an active role that begins as we turn our thoughts toward the vine. Thus setting of your mind on the Spirit isn’t something you do only once; it is something that must continually be done. Each time our minds wander into areas of the flesh, into areas of darkness, they need to be redirected and brought back to the light. And in the light they will find just what they need for nurturing the fruit the way the farmer does as he waters and cares for his crops” (pp. 197-198).
“To continue to allow the flesh a voice in our lives is to subdue the voice of the Spirit and to reject His will as secondary to our own” (p. 200).
Hayley doesn’t write from the standpoint of a super-Christian who has it all down pat and worked out perfectly. No, she is very honest and straightforward about her own failings and where the Lord has taken her as she has sought to abide in Him. That lends an authenticity and a relatability that would be lacking in a book written from someone’s lofty perch of supposed perfection. But she also pulls no punches with her readers: if we are not honest and real with our faults and sins, we won’t get victory over them.
I read this book as quickly as I could at first, because I knew I needed it all. But I felt I had hardly grasped a fraction of it, so I reread and outlined it. I came to realize, though, that reading a book and doing word studies aren’t going to get me to the place where I can say, “I’ve got it!” and never have to sort through these truths again. No, as Hayley said in a quote above, I will need to remind myself of them often, and I can add to my understanding over time and continue to grow. I probably will reread this book at intervals. I have started those word studies and have a good base, but I am going to add to them over time as I read the Bible rather than sorting through and organizing hundreds of verses but missing their impact.
There are just a very few spots that were a little weak, in my opinion. For instance, in the first half or so of the chapter on goodness, instead of delving into what the word “goodness” means in Galatians 5:22-23 and bringing out verses about it, as she does in most of the other chapters, she kind of philosophizes that “good” is relative to what pleases us (chocolate ice cream is good to her, but bratwursts are good to her husband), therefore, since God is inherently good, whatever pleases God is good. That’s true, in a sense, but as I said, seemed weaker to me than getting into verses about goodness (which she does later in the chapter and which approach she does use in most of the chapters).
Overall the book is chock full of wisdom, and I am happy to recommend it.
In fact, I think it is so beneficial that I am going to give away a copy. Not my copy – it is all marked up and has sticky tabs poking out of it. 🙂 But I’ll send one person your own brand new copy of the book. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, leave a comment below and I will choose one name from among the comments a week from today. (I will just use each name once, so multiple comments won’t count more). The drawing is closed. The winner is Janet! Congratulations!
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)