I experienced my first memorable nightmare back in the mid-1970’s.
Here’s the weird thing: My nightmare was based on a recurring television commercial. It wasn’t a commercial with a scary animal. It wasn’t a commercial with an intimidating character like Mr. Clean or the Brawny guy or Mr. Whipple squeezing the Charmin. Do you know which commercial it was that led to my nightmare?
OK, here it is. Try not to laugh or you might hurt my feelings.
In my nightmare, I was being chased around my house by the Fruit of the Loom guys.
Do you remember the Fruit of the Loom guys? They were men dressed up like big pieces of fruit, all for the purpose of selling undergarments! There was a big apple. Some purple grapes. Some green grapes. They look really cute in the television commercial. But, let me tell you, they don’t look so cute when they’re chasing you around the house in the middle of a nightmare!
To this day, I still get a little bit antsy when walking through the produce section of Giant Eagle. All that fruit!
Here’s the point: There was something about fruit that captured my attention and imagination back in the 1970s.
And there is something about fruit that is capturing my attention and imagination this weekend, as I make ready for the celebration called Pentecost in the Christian calendar. This weekend, however, it is not the Fruit of the Loom that I’m contemplating. Rather, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, referenced in the 5th chapter of Galatians—a portion of Scripture in which the Apostle Paul, in a moment of poetic creativity, invokes the image of fruit as a metaphor for the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit in a human life:
…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Why fruit? Why is it that Paul looks upon fruit as an appropriate metaphor for the work of God’s Holy Spirit?
I am not able to answer that question definitively, but I wonder how much of it has to do with the properties and characteristics of fruit. Most fruit is sweet to the taste and nutritious to the body. Fruit begins as something small but replete with potential, then grows and ripens until its potential is realized. Fruit is colorful and attractive. It is flavorful and fragrant. Its nectar is refreshing and its pulp is rich with nutrients.
Therefore, when Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work in a human life as fruit, he calls to mind a Spirit who brings about a love that is sweet like strawberries; a joy that is flavorful like tangerines; a peace that nourishes like good apples; a kindness and generosity that are fragrant, like ripe melon; a faithfulness that grows like grapes on the vine; and a self-control that is as succulent as a juicy peach on a hot summer day.
What is the Holy Spirit like? Scripture tells us that he is something like good fruit. And in a healthy diet, fruit is irreplaceable, isn’t it?