I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
When we lived in Europe, my husband and I took a vacation to the wine region of Burgundy, France. We were out in a vineyard, when the vintner told us that the best grapes need to struggle. She went on to explain that the reason the grapes are so good in that region is because the roots have to grow through limestone. It is a slow and difficult process for the roots to slowly break through the limestone or find their way to cracks.
In some respects, the struggle of the roots through hard places that she describes is a bit like human suffering. Intellectually, we know that our most difficult times in life are our best teachers. However, there is not a person in the world who welcomes suffering – we’d rather that God would transform us in other ways, so that we can declare victory and move on.
This is not the way of God, however. All we have to do is look at Jesus on the cross, and know that the fruitfulness of resurrection follows crucifixion, and this pattern plays out throughout the bible. Even entering into others’ suffering brings fruit – it builds compassion in us.
Richard Rohr calls this “downward mobility.” It is not necessarily ideas or belief systems that transform us – it’s failure, woundedness and solidarity with others who are suffering that are our best teachers, especially as we notice the movement of God in our midst.
It may take a long time for us to see this fruit in our lives. This is the slow work of God. So let us take a long look at the Crucified One, our true vine, who makes us into the finest of wines.
Prayer of Response:
Gracious God, help me to recognize righteous suffering in my life and notice the fruitfulness you produce from it. Amen.
Questions to Ponder:
Looking over your life, how do you notice the slow work of God? What wine has the Lord made in you?
— Submitted by Libby Rutherford
Libby is a longtime member of Lifesprings. She’s married to Jay, mom to John and Sarah, grandmother to Malcolm, and has two cats and is now up to 21 chickens. She pastors two rural churches and lives in Apple River, IL.