When the deadlines were sent for submitting my two articles to New Christian Woman this year, I was pleased to see the date for this one was just after the Gathering Leaves women’s retreat to be held at Purley Chase in the UK. I had booked to attend, and thought this article would be a perfect chance to reflect on that weekend and its theme: Fruits of the spirit.
Then Covid-19 began its rapid takeover of the world. At the end of May, Gathering Leaves was postponed until August 2021. My clever plan to write up that retreat was thwarted.
Yet now, three months later, I realize that since March I have been witnessing firsthand the fruits of the spirit mentioned on the Gathering Leaves webpage (except perhaps ‘joy’ and ‘peace’). Here’s the list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
The ‘fruits’ most visible in the village where I live have been love, kindness, goodness, gentleness. Foodbanks have been set up to tactfully help anyone struggling. People have been getting groceries and collecting medical prescriptions for neighbours and anyone self-isolating. A dad and his two young children grew extra vegetable seedlings and put them outside their property for anyone to take. On our permitted daily exercise, strangers as well as friends have struck up friendly conversations (usually from opposite sides of the lane). For a couple of months, folk stood outside their doors clapping appreciation for the National Health Service once a week; right after the first time, a young singer stood before a microphone in her front garden singing an aria that drifted through the warm night to much of the village. One woman has made over 1,000 facemasks and given them away, hanging them on a string against her front fence. Similar things have been happening throughout the UK (and the world). People have been hungry for human connection.
And actually, huge numbers of people have discovered a newfound balm for their souls – joy and peace outside, in ‘nature’. The spring here was astonishingly beautiful, sunny and warm. Every day brought new growth and blossom. There was peacefulness even in the heart of big cities because streets had virtually no traffic for weeks. The night skies were starlit and calming. The orderly processes of creation became clear. There was time to just sit and look.
For many, though, this has been a horrendous time. For some, patience, gentleness and self-control are hard to come by. Often, I can understand why.
I am counting my blessings more often than I usually do – including the current good health of my immediate family. That could change at any time; if it does, I hope I can hold tight to the positive ‘fruits of the spirit’ that have been so exemplified in the community around me.
‘God loves each and every human being. He cannot benefit them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people. He therefore breathes into people His love.’ True Christianity 457