I don’t know, how it is in your life, but in my family, the biggest arguments start at the worst possible moment. On our way out the door. At night, right before turning the lights out (or shortly after). In the car on our way to church. Why do you have to bring that up now? I am already stressed out. And voila, we leave the path of fruitful conversations, and embark on a journey over the sea of unfiltered emotions. Where it becomes difficult to find land, let alone the way back to love and peace. From all I learned from other families, that seems to be a pattern for almost all of us. Those are the moments, when we are a bit out of balance and it doesn’t need much, to push us from the safe shores of loving kindness into the dreadful abyss of emotional distress. Of course, it is not surprising. When our basic needs are not fulfilled, we have a hard time, concentrating on the less important.
Evolutionary biology describes four basic drives, all animals share. They are called the ‘four Fs’. Fighting, fleeing, feeding, and making offsprings. The first two are combined in the fight-or-flight response. An animal encounters a threat to its life, its territory, its eggs. In that moment, it has to make a decision. Do I fight this threat, or do I run away. Predators are prone to attack. Prey is inclined to flee. But, depending on the circumstances, a gazelle might successfully fight off a lion. The sex drive tells an animal to ensure the survival of its race, by creating the next generation. And the fear of starvation turns the calmest creature into an aggressive beast.
The human brain is bigger and more evolved, than that of, let’s say, a crocodile. But that doesn’t separate us from the four Fs. We just try to bury them under thick layers of complexity. Our fight-or-flight reflex manifests itself every time, we are in a confrontation. A boss talks to an employee about a problem. The employee fights back (for example, by shifting the blame) or accepts the defeat (for example, by quietly bearing the shame). (Every human interaction would be way better, if all participants were able to neither fight nor flee. If we could all focus on what’s best for everybody, we might ‘loose’ in this situation, but win in the long run. But that is just a side note here.) So, if we want a fruitful discussion with someone about a difficult topic, we need to create a non-threatening environment. Otherwise we constantly force them to fight or flee. Our sex drive is covered under the need to be loved. So again, if we want a fruitful discussion, everyone must feel loved and welcome. And fed. Make sure, they had enough to eat.
I find it always fascinating, which topics Jesus covers and which not. For example, He talks an awful lot about money. Then He calls us to heal the sick and cast out demons, but completely “forgets” to tell us how. And when He teaches us, to recognize people, we shall do that by their fruits. That only leaves us with two questions. Which part of a person is their fruit and what are the good fruits, we are looking for. Our natural assumption is, that our fruit is our legacy. The worth of a person is in all the good He or she accomplished. But, strangely enough, legacy is one of those topics, Jesus does not bother to discuss. And it would be difficult, if we always had to wait for someone’s death, before we could tell, if they were good or not. So, we need another type of fruit to look for. In Galatians 5 verses 22+23, Paul uses the same word, fruit, to list character traits, he calls ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. That not only tells us, the the fruit are character traits, but also, which are the good ones. Unfortunately, we are really good in wearing masks. As long, as I have my four Fs, I can be, whomever I want to be. Loving, gentle, self-controlled, at peace. Whatever you want. My real character only shines through, when I am out of balance. Or, as Brant Hansen put it so beautifully: “[Fruit] is, what falls of the tree, when you bump into it.” The satisfied me has the capacity to not be me. Shake me, and you will see, who I truly am. Out of balance, I cannot hide anymore. The mask is pulled away, and there is no more hiding. But this is the place, where God wants to cultivate His fruit. We are created in His image, we are called to mirror His character. Yet, this only works, when we are stable in Him. In Him, in His Peace, we are invited, to be satisfied. There you cannot threaten me, for I know, who protects me. There I am not hungry, for I know, who feeds me. There I am welcome, for I know, who loves me. Living in His Presence gives me the power to become like Him. Then, and only then, we can bear good fruit. Here, we stand on firm land forever. On the Rock of Ages.