by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario, October 2006
A couple bought a crocodile and kept it in the pool in their back yard. They were told it should only be fed once a week, and they had decided to train it to be vegetarian. The first Saturday the man knelt by the pool with a nice dish of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts. The crocodile jumped right out of the water and bit off the man’s arm. The next Saturday he was still in hospital, and his wife was leaving the dish of vegetables ten feet away from the pool, but the crocodile ran towards her and bit off her arm. The third Saturday the man had only the stump of his arm left, so he left the food outside, and stayed safely inside. The crocodile called to him and said, "I love the meat, but I can’t stand those veggies."
The point of this story is that it is not easy to train a crocodile to eat vegetables. James, the Lord’s brother, wrote that "Every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue" (James 3:8). The problem is that it takes a long time, and you cannot get results on three Saturdays.
Many years ago at the Moulin Rouge in Paris I watched a performance where a huge fish tank was wheeled on to the stage with a crocodile swimming in it. The trainer then dived in and played with the animal. Finally he got the crocodile to open its jaws and he put his head inside. I wonder how long it took to train the animal to go against its natural instinct?
Crocodile, Lion, and Dog Trainers all achieve their impressive results by establishing a personal relationship with the animal, and then balancing their instincts and drives in the direction of the skills they want to attain.
Among humans the instinct of fear was used in the training of slaves and by drill sergeants with their recruits. These days financial and other perks are offered in many professions. Perhaps the greatest motivations are by peer pressure and the desire for approval by others.
Some humans manage to attain astonishing control over their bodies by the exercise of their will power. But no amount of control over our instincts and drives can ever produce what God has in mind for us. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). Some people have one or two of these qualities given to them by their upbringing, but even they usually find situations in which love and joy and peace are impossible to attain. The reason is that kind of spiritual fruit needs a quite different set of motivations that can only be engrafted in us by the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual maturity is first a personal relationship with Jesus, the Son of God. Then there has to be the recognition that the fruit of the Spirit is impossible for us to produce, however much will power we have and however hard we try. And thirdly faith means letting the Holy Spirit produce this panoply of miraculous gifts by his intervention into the heart of our personality.