My family and I spent our Summer holiday in the Loire Valley, an area famous for its vineyards and wine making. During my time there, I started to think about the journey of the grape and the long process it goes through from vine to wine glass. I felt God challenge me about that journey and how it could apply to the long process we each go through in life to become who God would have us to be.
If I was to imagine myself as a grape, this is what the process might feel like:
It is a fresh sunny day in early spring, and I am hanging on the vine with a bunch of others, covered with morning dew. I feel like I am part of something, and life’s prospects seem good, but then suddenly, the rain and hail hits.
I try to hide behind the vine leaf to shelter from the storm, but it is hard to keep dry, for the vine has been pruned back, and I am now exposed, unable to hide.
Where has the sun gone? Is this Spring or Winter? No one told me this would be so hard! It feels like hell. Surely this will be over soon?
And then after a turbulent and stormy and wet Summer, now Autumn has come. Early morning early frost settles on the vine, and again I found myself wanting to shelter, but then before I know it, it is harvest time, and suddenly, I am being picked from the vine.
There are loud engines and machines all around, and I find myself being ripped from all that is secure and safe.
I am put into a large, dark, smelly container and then turned into another metal large box, where I am being pressed and squeezed. My very shape itself is being moulded into something else, and all I can feel is intense pressure and deep, deep crushing. It hurts!
Finally, just when I think it is over, I am then poured into a wood barrel and wheeled into a dark cellar. Surely this is it? All this crushing, this pain, this change… surely I am now ready and finished? This must be the final stage which will last a few hours, no?
But no, this process takes a few years, and then something remarkable happens. Suddenly, a light shines into the darkness, and the wine is being tasted. ‘It is ready’, I hear the voices cry as they pour me into a much smaller container, a bottle.
There’s a label on the outside of the bottle to describe what I now am, but just when I think I am about to be released into my purpose, I am once again now laid carefully on a shelf to wait and wait and wait.
It seems as though the waiting goes on forever, but then once again, the light shines into the darkness, and I am being gently handled. The cork on the bottle is carefully removed, and I am being poured into a large glass. I can hear all the voices around the table, and I can hear the host of the party, saying ‘Try this fine wine… this is the best I have ever made.’
Everyone is smelling and swirling and tasting and agreeing with the host that this long process has been worth it all. All the seasons, all the crushing, the pressing, and the waiting has produced something that not only looks beautiful but which also smells and tastes wonderful.
If we apply the picture of a grape to our own lives, I am sure we will see many similarities.
We each walk through many seasons, many of them very painful, which at times feel as though they will never end.
And yet, through the whole process, God is making something beautiful and precious out of everything we go through.
What season are you in today? And if you were squeezed, what aroma, what taste would come from you? My prayer is that we can stand with Paul, who said ‘But I will rejoice even if my life is poured out like a liquid offering to God, over your sacrificial and surrendered lives of faith. And so no matter what happens to me, you should rejoice in ecstatic celebration with me!’ (Philippians 2:17).
I pray that whatever season you are in, you will believe and be encouraged that no matter what is happening, God can use this time to make something beautiful out of us.