As I began to walk through the lush vineyard, it was evident that it was the beginning of harvest time. Row upon row of grape vines stood planted in equal distances from one another. The hidden roots had produced sturdy vines branching out in two directions guided by wires above them so that the branch of one vine intersected with the branch of another.
The vintner had pruned all the branches lower on the vine to allow the nourishment for the grapes to be at the top of the branches. He eliminated anything that would hinder the health and productivity of the vines. Grape clusters hung heavy on the vines in varying shades of purple, blue, and green. Mesh screen on both sides of each row of vines secured and protected the grapes from becoming dislodged from the vines and falling to the ground. The arrangement of the well pruned vines near the soil, the stakes, wires, and mesh also allowed the sun to shine on the grapes uncovered from the branches themselves.
At the end of the rows beautiful red roses bloomed on the bushes planted there as guardians of the vines. They are perfectly suited for their assignment since both roses and grape vines are susceptible to some of the same diseases. Various types of mildew and fungus can attack the vines, but the rose bushes help the vintner to catch evidences of the diseases in early stages so they can be treated and the grapes will not be harmed or lost.
Even though some varieties were not fully ripened, others were already being picked. The cool September breeze and the warm sunshine would need to complete their work for the other varieties to be ready. The vintner would watch carefully for the exact time each varietal would produce the sugar content and taste he desired.
But long before this season of promised harvest, the hard work of preparing the soil was done to assure the exact needed nutrients were worked into the ground. Then the stakes were installed that would support the young vines as they grew and later held up their burgeoning branches of fruit.
The vintner knew well the value of protecting the vines. This year’s harvest would come from vines that had grown and been tended for more than a few years. Any vintner knows that growing a vineyard will be a long investment. It is not unusual to be eight years until the first bottles of wine will be sold if only the juice of a new vineyard is used.
As I walked through the vineyard, my mind turned to John 15 where Jesus tells His disciples that He is the vine and we are the branches. As I considered the many steps needed to produce a good harvest of grapes, I sensed Him pointing to His patience with me (and each of us) in order for us to be all He has envisioned, to produce the harvest He has envisioned.
For years He has worked the soil of my heart to provide what is needed to even consider a harvest. He has allowed hurtful things and painful disappointments to happen because He knows they will strengthen what He has planted to ensure the harvest. He has cut away what will interfere with His plan.
I was reminded that my friend and I had come to the vineyard and winery to celebrate a harvest of sorts. We had tended a project for many months and already pruned it several times. He was showing me there was more ripening to accomplish before the harvest and perhaps some pruning also. Only then would the harvest be as He desired when He had given us the assignment.
If He were to be glorified by our efforts, it would be as a result of our humbling and His handiwork. His vision for the project was greater than ours.
He knew we were not fully equipped for the task.
He was reminding us once again of our utter dependence upon Him.
I love the way Margaret Feinberg describes the picture He was giving me in her insightful book, Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey:
“The vine is the source of everything for the branch – every nutrient, every life-giving drop of water, every hint of growth. The branch is completely dependent on the vine. But even in those moments when I grow wild or unbalanced, God is faithful as a vinedresser to perform all the small cuts I need to remain fruitful. So, in that place where I am abiding in Christ under the watchful eye of the Father, I can trust that the Father will be pruning those areas and desires in my life that don’t line up with where He wants me to go.”