Sunday, May 13, 2012


 On the news the other night, I heard a story about an ex-con who had turned his life around and established a vineyard in an unlikely place - the middle of the inner-city. For three years, he has been waiting patiently for the grapes to mature in the midst of adverse circumstances.

As I watched the video of him walking through the rows of well-kept vines, I noticed just how much his attention was on each bud. He even stopped mid-stride and mid-sentence while he was on camera with the reporter to adjust an errant branch and make it lie down on the guide wire.

Despite their sparse appearance, all the rows of neatly laid out vines will produce 3,000 bottles of wine at the proper time. They were much taller the previous year but not ready to harvest. In wisdom, the man had cut them back. "Pruning strengthens the grape for the longer run," the reporter said.

I sometimes wonder why God planted me here in the midst of illness, crime, loss, and sorrow. I wonder why year after year goes by and I feel like I grow in faith, but the pruning shears come out again. He bends down, examines me in love, his tender gaze on my little shoot, and then he snaps it right off. This is love. This is love that I can't quite grasp emotionally when I'm in pain.

But to see this parable brought to life on TV, I can start to understand that God's pruning is the best kind of love. The online news report described the reformed man who expertly cuts back his plants: "He quietly surveys the buds on the vines, deftly fingering the growth, looking for whatever strength there is in the buds." How much more will holy God show this patient love toward us, the ones he plants and prunes for glory?

If there had been a story about a vineyard in the rolling hills of one of the rural counties nearby, no one would have raised an eyebrow. But when a reporter hears of a vineyard in the inner-city that once burned with riots, that's newsworthy. I think God likes those kinds of stories too - the unexpected planting of a weak vessel in a bad place to show the kind of power He can enact when true faith perseveres.

Though we may be planted in the midst of adversity, pruned painfully, and endure long years of nothing outwardly changing, our Gardener has a good purpose in mind, and he's willing to wait. When we act out, he will lay us down again to follow his guide wire. And when the years have passed and the spiritual fruit of abiding in Christ is finally ripe, we will overflow with a harvest for God - a harvest all the more sweet and powerful because of the wait and because of the darkness from which we came.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
John 15:1-2