Ron and I still smile toothy grins when we think about his first visit to my grandparents’ house in Auburn. Mema and Pawpaw were excited about getting to know Ron, so Mema poured all the love she had into the meal she set before us. She cooked all my favorites, and I do mean ALL of them, for my favorite man!
Every time Ron’s tea glass reached the half-full mark, Mema was right there pouring him some more of her sugar mixed with a little tea. I guess Mema took an extra good liking to Ron because she kept passing the meat and vegetables around until his belly swelled up like a snake-bit dog. But how could he refuse a meal of that caliber? Finally, after reaching the I-couldn’t-possibly-eat-another-bite stage, Mema sat a monstrous piece of coconut pie down in front of him. He loves coconut pie, so … If his shirt had buttons they would have popped clear across the room. About that time, she picked up his empty plate and plopped down another just-as-monstrous piece of chocolate pie in front of him. Did I say he loves chocolate pie too?
I think Mema won Ron’s heart that day. He knew how much time and love had gone into that grand gesture. But, Ron’s willingness to receive all the love she offered won my Mema’s heart, and they became great friends from that day forward.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that my Mema’s maiden name was Peace. Because of all the love and joy she expressed, we found great peace whenever we stepped into her kitchen. She offered that same peace to the sick and to new mothers through her vegetable soup and pound cakes. She often welcomed weary church newcomers to her table – threatening to pop their every button. Yet, the tastiest and most substantial thing about Mema was not found in her kitchen, but rather her heart. It held a monstrous helping of Holy Spirit fruit.
When the Spirit plants a seed of love in our hearts, all of the other qualities begin to germinate, swell, and grow around it layer upon layer. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control eventually grow into one piece of lusciously, fragrant fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Paul gave good advice when he said, “So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14:19, CSB) When I look at the qualities produced by the Spirit, I see peace as the lynchpin between our insides and our outsides. Understanding and accepting the overwhelming LOVE of God fills us to the brim with extreme thankfulness. Great JOY then wraps around that thankfulness. Knowing we have been made right with God simply because He loves and values us gives us the inner PEACE our souls long for. Only then, can we begin to extend peace to others.
True peace helps us see others the way Jesus sees them. It encourages us to become more PATIENT and KINDER when we pay attention to their struggles. An increasing awareness of Jesus’ GOODNESS in our hearts reinforces our FAITHFULNESS in God’s plan for our lives. That steadfast faith allows us to become GENTLE and SELF-CONTROLLED – even with those who threaten our peacefulness.
Mema’s kitchen was the incubator in which her love grew. She not only said, “I love you”, she also offered a hefty helping of literal love that always came with a side of joy and peace. It comforts me to realize that it took time for her to become who she grew to be. In the kitchen, it took years of peeling, chopping, simmering, seasoning, and tasting to develop the right skills to create a menu worthy of sharing with the whole world. In her heart, it most likely took years of praying, reading the Word, and walking humbly with her God to sweeten her fruit of the Spirit. That gives me hope.
I’m convinced that Jesus won the heart of Mema long ago because she knew how much time and love had gone into His grandest gesture. But, Mema’s willingness to receive all the love He freely offered won Jesus’ heart, and they became great friends from that day forward.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NLT)