My cousin’s granddaughter has a new pet and he’s either called Pickles or Grumpy Pants depending on his reaction to what’s going on around him. And his reaction affects others—he’s a hedgehog. He can keep his quills safely down where they won’t harm anyone or he can roll into a ball, covering himself in all directions with sharp, pointy little spikes. And that can cause some fairly serious damage. She’s hoping he settles down in his new home because now he often reacts in hurtful ways that aren’t too pleasant to those around him.

About the time I received my hedgehog email, I also received an email from a friend who works in an office dealing with the public and, of course, with other coworkers. She was bemoaning the fact that during the previous week she hadn’t been very “user friendly” to those around her. She didn’t come out and actually say she was prickly like Grumpy Pants, but she did wonder where her fruit was. Okay. It appears I have made a leap from small animal to regrettable work habits to missing fruit. What in the world do these have in common?

What did my friend mean when she lamented the absence of “fruit” in her life–a poorly planned lunch? I’m not sure what she had in her lunch sack that week, but I do know that’s not what she was referring to. Colossians 1:10 explains it this way: “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work ….” My friend knew that as a believer, she has been uniquely empowered by God to bear fruit because that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life. And in Galatians 5:22-23 we find a list of this “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Because of what was happening in the office that week, my friend had lost some of the fruit in her life. And because she had allowed circumstances or people or whatever to rob her of her fruit, she felt she wasn’t very user friendly to those around her.

That may be true with some of us as we start this new year. When we don’t have joy and peace because of a strained relationship with God, when we don’t respond to others with love or patience, kindness and goodness or when we don’t have the character traits of faithfulness, gentleness and self-control we don’t have a full fruit basket. The result is a life that reflects someone who isn’t totally committed to living a life for God. My friend knew this and it bothered her. Others watch more often than they listen and when something is missing in our lives, they aren’t getting a complete picture of who God is and what He wants to do in their lives. Second Corinthians 5:20 tells us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us . . . be reconciled to God.” That’s our job.

The year ahead is filled with unknowns. With the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we can have the fruit God desires us to have in our lives. And if we have God’s fruit, we’ll be user friendly toward others. If we’re user friendly, we won’t push others away because of our hurtful, prickly exterior. Instead, they will be drawn to God because of what they see in us. Are you Grumpy Pants or user friendly?