(An excerpt from Cultivating Love and Renewal by Dr Ken McGill)
Each person has 7 primary “rows” or life areas in the garden of their life, in which some form of work is to be done each day. The rows are simply labeled Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Physical/Biological, Sexual, Social/Relational and finally Environmental. Each day, we use our tools (see below for a partial list) to cultivate personal and relational growth in these rows. Even though we work for the overall outcome to be the mature expression of love (mature fruit), we know that our growth in these life areas is process-oriented. This means that important skills such as self-awareness, gaining knowledge, being committed to the process of transformation, exercising personal responsibility and developing a sympathetic and an empathetic ear are crucial at this stage of growth. Like unwanted weeds, learning to extinguish the punitive, shaming, compulsive and judgmental voices and behaviors affords us the opportunity to hear, integrate and grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — which are all “gifts” to us from our Higher Power to us.
Biblical Insight: In this stage simply gaining and growing in Knowledge accelerates the growth of love and by skillfully applying what you have learned on a day-to-day basis leads to Wisdom. Knowledge, or some variant of the word (to think, perceive, discern, inform, investigate, intuit, learn, respect, become familiar with, cause to know, etc.), facilitates awareness, understanding, comprehension and wisdom, which are prime ingredients in the development of love. Knowledge is acquired by being exposed to healthy data, stimuli, counsel, models and experiences that you observe, reclaim or “redeem” from your past to help you be successful with present issues impacting you. Developing and redeeming healthy and practical behavior(s) will assist you in your effort to grow mature love (2 Peter 1:5–8; Ephesians 5:15–16). Being willing to learn and then to deliver the healthy balance of the 5 Greek words for Love (below) in addition to learning and becoming proficient with the “Love Languages” (Smalley and Trent, 2005) is the beginning of realizing your purpose and becoming fruitful with the right, accurate and appropriate measure of fruit that will edify any person who comes into your presence.
The mature expressions of love (fruitfulness) you wish to produce in the “rows of your life” have to do with you working daily to cultivate different thoughts, feelings, behaviors and experiences in these areas. Ask yourself “What do I need to cultivate and what do I need to eliminate” in each of these 7 Core Areas: (1. Spiritually)…with my faith, life, morals, ethics and the cultivation of my spiritual empowerment?” (2. Cognitively)…with my life philosophy, and the communication of my unique ideas, vision and viewpoints?” (3. Emotionally)…regarding the safe and open expression of a range of feelings that facilitate warmth, security, connection and importance?” (4. Physically/Biologically)…about living a bio-balanced life, as evidenced by the engagement in health/wellness activities and other responsibilities?” (5. Sexually)…about engaging in sensual acts that stimulate and facilitate pleasure and spiritual intimacy?” (6. Socially/Relationally)…about engaging in mutual, fun, respectful and meaningful encounters to “re-create” and experience relationship?” (7. Environmentally)…about intentional, passionate and purposeful living to affect the world in a significant manner one ‘season’ at a time?
Biblical Insight: Fruit is the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly (John 15:4–5). The production, authenticity “flavor and sweetness” of the fruit is the result of character (Proverbs 11:30) and the power producing it (Matthew 7:16–20). Fruitfulness and maturity concerning Love is a reflection of one’s knowledge, skill and the accurate and healthy demonstration of the 5 Greek words for Love. The words are EROS (the Erotic, and all that is arousing and satisfying pertaining to sexual love), EPITHUMIA (accurately placed desire, craving and passion), STORGE (caring provision for one’s children and family, marked by healthy affection, nurturance and cherishing them), PHILEO (love, as evidenced by “best friend” characteristics) and AGAPE (action-oriented behavior evidenced by the unconditional expression of respect, acceptance, honor, value, esteem, prizing and devotion). Love is clearly demonstrated via the “5 Love Languages,” briefly defined as demonstrating healthy Physical Touch, spending Quality Time together, providing tangible and valued Gifts, engaging in negotiated Acts of Service and offering thoughtful Words of Appreciation. Believe it or not, every person probably has a preference in one or two of these categories regarding how they would like to be “loved.” Fruitfulness and maturity concerning Love is also a product of one’s diligent work in the 7 Core Areas of his/her Life, which if done wisely will ensure that the person “lives as if he is recovering from an illness” (Luke 10:25–28).