In the agricultural world, the term “harvesting” means the process of gathering what has been growing and ripening. It’s also a fitting term for what happens to what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit” (see Gal. 5:22-23). These fruits are spiritual qualities that help us find harmony and peace in our lives. We bring them to harvest by developing our spiritual sense of life and drawing closer to God. As they grow in our thoughts and hearts, we find them to be valuable spiritual truths for constructive use in our lives.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, notes the nine specific spiritual qualities the Bible describes as fruits of the Spirit, and quotes from a biblical passage in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: ...” (p. 106). These fruits abide in our consciousness and ripen, as we value and express them. Ideally, they are then ready to be harvested – ready to be put to good use when we need them.
As in most gardening, weeds also flourish. Some of these mental “weeds” that should be pulled up and discarded include the opposites of the spiritual fruits that so bless us. We may find it helpful to look to the opposites of the fruits listed above and find the weeds. Anything unloving is certainly a weed, and so are joylessness, anger, and agitation. Impatience also needs to be rooted out of consciousness and discarded.
While weed-pulling may not seem as rewarding as harvesting the “crop,” its role is essential in this mental gardening. Negative thoughts not only take up space in our thinking, but they also bear no useful fruit of their own.
How do we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit? Again, we may look to gardening for guidance. The gardener begins with cultivating the soil. This includes thorough overturning. We may find it helpful to stir up our consciousness and find what may have been lodging there. Fears, unkind thoughts, worthless enterprises, and other negativity need to be exposed and cast out.
In another book, Mrs. Eddy asks some thought-provoking questions in this regard: “Are we clearing the gardens of thought by uprooting the noxious weeds of passion, malice, envy, and strife? ... Are we feeling the vernal freshness and sunshine of enlightened faith?” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 343). This healing “sunshine of enlightened faith” helps purify the soil and get it ready for a fresh planting. This work doesn’t need to be a toilsome witch hunt. Actually, turning our thoughts more and more to the “vernal freshness and sunshine of enlightened faith” brings us closer to God. Then our commitment to pursue spiritual fruits can uncover the negative thoughts and bring them to the surface, like weeds to be destroyed.
We may also need to be mindful that the good seeds we drop into the ground are small, and their sprouting at first barely visible. While we may not see much evidence of our own spiritual growth, we can remind ourselves that any evidence of spirituality shows we are heading in the right direction.
It’s important when evaluating spiritual growth that we don’t fall into the trap of comparing our progress with someone else’s. Each of us is growing at our own pace. Trying to catch up with another or lamenting that we are so far behind slows us down. Valuing each evidence of increased spirituality impels further development.
This spiritual progress in any direction may seem slow at first, but it leads to healing – a harvest of wonderfully satisfying fruit.