The Mastery of Self

Many a time when we hear the word self-control, we think of how we can temper ourselves or fix something within that is spiraling into chaos.  We think of the worldly perspective of self-control:

“Behave yourself.”

“Girl, show some restraint.”  

“Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

Although these worldly perspectives are laced with good intentions, I have a feeling this is not what Paul spoke of in Galatians 5:22-23.  Paul mentioned self-control as the last mentioned element of the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t believe this was a coincidence, but one of the pinnacle moments in his speaking to Galatia. The Greek word for self-control is egkrateia which means temperance, the virtue of one who has command or mastery over one’s own behavior.

Ugh! I don’t even think I can count how many times I have forgotten to show mastery or command over my own behavior!  Muttering under my breath, the thoughts that swirl in my brain, and the unruly things that lash from my tongue are evidence enough that I am not always in control of myself. It is saddening to confess how many occasions I relinquished mastery over my own life into the flare ups of my flesh.

But there is beauty wafting behind our inability to control ourselves.  Instead of expecting to be perfect, I have been given the right as a child of God to show up at the feet of Jesus each time I screw up.  I know that Jesus was tempted to sin in every way that I have been tempted (Hebrews 4:15), but He didn’t take hold of it in the ways I have.  His love for me translates into his perfection trumping my imperfection.  I will never measure up, and there is freedom in knowing I don’t have to.

I also believe that Paul chose self-control as the last expression of the fruit of the Spirit because it is so important in our walk with Jesus.  I am called to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Instead of feeling the enormous weight and pressure to always be in control, I can instead pause, think before I speak or act, and ask God to help me show His character.  It is through Christ’s power in me that I can govern my own behavior. There will be numerous occasions presented every day in which I will have to take my thoughts captive and give them up to God.  And you know what? I think that’s the whole point. It draws us to Him.

We are to continually be in God’s presence, in constant communication with Him, for it is there we are strengthened. There His Spirit reminds us of His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He wants us to come to Him at all times saying, “I can’t do this on my own; I need you God. By your strength alone.”

Readers, Where is God offering you His strength today?

0752d-sarah2bsquareSarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.



Faithful Choices

I met my husband at the city center bus depot. We stood downtown amongst a handful of other college-aged students ready to work and share hope with homeless teenagers. Over the following weeks, in the midst of exhaust fumes and ministry, something began to blossom and we began dating a few months later. I remember distinctly, as we began to discover what God might have in store, the charming line he espoused that has now been quoted in at least one wedding toast, “You can fall in a hole, you can fall in a pile of poop, but I don’t think people really fall in love. Love is a choice.” Later, we stood before hundreds of friends and family and vowed to choose to love one another every day. No matter what.

In a few weeks we’ll have been daily working out that promise for 6 years. We have failed each other and forgiven; we have chosen self and chosen the other; we have battled over small things and held each other in deep sorrow. Faithfulness did not keep us from failures, but it did help lift us from them. We choose it even in the moments when the other does not, for this is what God does for us.

“If we are faithless, [God] remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

Faithfulness is an expression of the fruit of the Spirit that I believe comes through small mundane choices that build into a solid foundation. Countless opportunities are in front of us each day to build or tear down the life God can build when we choose to look to Him to help us love.

In no way is marital faithfulness the only area God grows devotion and consistency. Small, deliberate choices over time change the trajectory of life in friendships, raising of children, vocation, and virtually any relationship with another. To have a relationship for any length of time means that both parties must choose at some point to forgive, overlook, or assume the best. If not, a trail of broken relationships is all that will be left behind.

Faithfulness is counter cultural in the era we are living in. Gone are the days of choosing a vocation and retiring years later from the same industry with an engraved gold watch to testify to years of trustworthy service. People these days don’t stick with much. We throw away items rather than mending them, quit when things get hard, and move quickly from one friendship to another.  It becomes easier to leave than work out the hard things. Our devotion is short lived, and looks more like passing interest than an investment of time and energy.  

This is the amazing truth about God’s faithfulness to us:  He loves us, and is devoted to us even though we mess up constantly.  His faithfulness is the bedrock that gives us incredible security. He has chosen to love us. Amazingly, he then gives us the fruit of the Spirit so that we may mirror Him. We too can be given the power to love other people through all sorts of days.  

So we:

  • We call our Mamas to let them know we love them. Let’s be honest, we will never fully understand what it took to raise us.
  • We go to work even when we don’t want to.
  • We visit the friend who hasn’t been able to visit us.
  • We reach for the hand of a spouse even when in the midst of an argument, because, even though our blood may be boiling, we faithfully want to show we are in this together.
  • We check in with Grandma remembering to ask about that last doctor appointment, because that has become a regular part of her life.
  • We parent through horrible tantrums when we want to just give up.
  • We do what we know is right.
  • We choose love.
  • We show up.

Faithfulness comes out in the small things, but eventually builds into a way of life. Luke 16:10 tells us, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much….” A sincere, faithful life is one soaked in integrity that points at Jesus.

Love is a choice every day; we know that because God puts people in our path that we have been chosen to love. Yes, just because they are there, for they are there by design.  Not because loving others is natural (it is much easier for us to love ourselves), but because that is the way God has loved us.


Readers, we each have a million choices and opportunities to love one another over time. Who needs a faithful act from you today?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

Gentleness,Motherhood, and the Ways of Jesus

Since the day I became a mother, the value of gentleness has been impressed upon my heart. I have observed many mothers as they parent their children. I watch, and I learn. I knew early on that one quality I deeply desired to emulate was that of the grace of gentleness. Before I even had my first child, I knew that I wanted to be a mother who was gentle, especially, with my words.  I saw and still see it as a way of loving and caring for the impressionable hearts of the children God has given me. Since then, my husband and I have been blessed with two more children, now having 3 daughters. I realize now in the business of our large family that, even for the most tender of people, perpetual gentleness does not come as naturally or as easily as I thought. In moments of hurry, giving a soft answer is downright hard.  When in the midst of constant questioning, exhaustion, and the need to lovingly discipline, an amiable response feels far from my lips. I strive to be gentle with my husband and my girls, but when I am home and frustration sets in, I go to battle within myself. I am so far from where I want to be, thank God for Jesus.

When I look to the gentleness of other, much more incredible mothers, I am inspired. When I look to the gentleness of Jesus, I am utterly wrecked. I love Romans 5:8 saying, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He asked God, His Father, to forgive the very ones who were nailing him to the cross, mocking his name. He had every right to get down from that cross, yell thunderous booms in the soldiers faces, and let a legion of angels take them to justice. He could have climbed right down from that cross and turned the tables on each of the men who were mocking, beating, spitting on, and murdering him. But he was silent. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter… he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7)

Jesus’ sacrifice on that cross encompassed every good thing. In His crucifixion can be found every element of the fruit of the spirit and so much more. I see gentleness. Gentleness, in its quiet nonimposing way, speaks more mightily than we give it credit for. Not just in how Jesus acted during the crucifixion, but in how he deals with me, the one who’s punishment he took. I am all too much like my 2 1/2 year old daughter. I seek my way and throw tantrums at God. At times I get red faced, frantic, stomp my feet and want to run to my room, away from the God who gently calls my name. Yet, He loves me. He stands there and waits. Even when I am being defiant toward him, he pursues me and his gentle words pierce the depths of my soul. You see, not only was he gentle that one time, that time on the cross, but he is gentle every single moment of every single day. We do not deserve him, but he gave himself up for us, to freely accept his gift of eternal life. And it’s not a “use it or lose it” affair. It is as my children’s Bible says, “a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

Because of what Jesus did for me, I can look to Him when I want to snap at my kids. I search for Him when I want to yell at my husband and shake my fist at God. Only because of Him, because of Jesus, can I ever cultivate gentleness in my home.


Readers, How have you experienced gentleness in your life? How did it surprise or change you?

A huge thank you to our guest poster, Britney Bradley!  If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration you can find the details on our submissions page.

There is Some Good

We have long been told by well-meaning people that everyone has good in them, I want to believe it, but I am keenly aware that while all may be made  in God’s image,  that doesn’t necessarily mean we reflect His goodness. The mantra has been developed in part because it is hard to face how susceptible we are to chasing our lusts, shocked by how driven we can be by impure desire, and humbled by the fact that without God, we are far from good. Understandably, we want to look at the brighter side of life and not be afraid to fall asleep in a world filled with others conquering or succumbing to the same temptations we know we face each day. However, that is not the only reason so many have come to believe the “all people are basically good”, it is also cherished because of its passivity. We appreciate things that reflect well upon us but require little brain power, which this line of thinking does quite well.

In the word of God we are told that goodness is fruit from the Spirit of God. There it is in Galatians 5 amongst a list of all the other qualities that comprise the fruit that is given to Christ’s followers. It is easy to identify when we are not being loving, kind, or patient, but there are certain attributes listed in the fruit of the spirit that seem harder to assess. To me, goodness is the most troublesome. If someone following Christ is self-controlled, faithful, and at peace, we acknowledge the fruit is present in their life. I can identify in my mind friends who excel at gentleness, or those who seem to be able to hold onto their joy even during hard times. Matthew 7:18-20 says, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” But goodness itself, what does that look like in a believer? How do we know if goodness is present?

Goodness it seems, is something active, present, and given to the larger community of a person’s life. Not much goodness spills out of an individual if they are a hermit, secluded unto themselves. A recluse can demonstrate patience, peace, and joy but goodness seems to need a receiver to be present.

When I think of a character who exhibited great goodness,I think of the adventures of the fictional Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings series. He enjoyed community, shared his life with others, and would have been perfectly fine staying in the Shire, but then came the day when his goodness led him into more. Sam, who faithfully supported his friend Frodo throughout the story, was a common man with simple desires, but with a depth of character that often made a tremendous impact, as in this scene from The Two Towers:

FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.  SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.  But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.  FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?  SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.― J.R.R.Tolkien, TheTwo Towers

Can we, like Sam, refuse to turn back? Do we wake with hope for the good that we may be able to unleash into a hurting world, because the Spirit of God resides within us? We can bring beauty; we can bring truth; we can bring the hope of the deepest love ever known, into dark places that have begun to forsake the possibility that there may actually be something that is good all the time.

Let’s plan for good, because good has already been planned for us.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”-Ephesians 2:10

Do things for the benefit of others. This will inconvenience you, but it will be worth it. Think about how to imitate the goodness of Christ, but don’t be weighed down by an expectation that you must earn righteousness. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-Ephesians 2:28 We are freed from the weight of trying to muster up goodness because we get to rest in that Christ has already made us so, and just let it flow out of us. Find out what you are good at, what makes you come alive, and then make time to do it for others to show love, to encourage hearts, and to share the gospel with those who desperately need to see the glory of God’s goodness energizing a weary world.


Readers, How can you spread goodness today?

e9d88-chara2bbio2bpic2bsquare2b600pxChara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.