I know absolutely nothing about wine. Truth be told, we don’t really drink alcohol. That’s not to say that I never have, but the desire for it is something God drew Helen and me away from long ago for whatever purpose He intended.
In light of that, it’ll probably sound odd to read that Helen and I spent a few days away in Napa Valley, CA, last month to celebrate our anniversary. Yes, the Napa Valley that is one of the foremost places on Earth for the growth of grapes for the production of wine. Our main goal in going was just to relax, as we have been trying the last several years to go somewhere new and different to celebrate our anniversary. We have a friend whose cousins own a private bed and breakfast in Napa Valley (they don’t even advertise it) and we were able to get a few nights reserved … and we figured it’d be a nice time to do some outdoor stuff and check out some cool restaurants (because I’ve not lost the desire to eat haha).
One afternoon we decided to take a walk together around the perimeter of the 15-acre vineyard that comprises three-fourths of the property where the B&B is located. Being neophytes to the grape-growing and wine production business, we admired the vineyard but had no clue whether it was a good operation or a mediocre one. We did note at the time what seemed like a nuance to the grapevine growing process, which I’ve since been able to confirm is relevant after having a look at some sources including the The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Basically, when vines are originally planted, you employ a number of means to help promote upright and strong growth for the grapevine, such as constructing a trellis or arbor, and using grow tubes. In the photo above, which we took at the property where we stayed, we saw clearly how they used grow tubes and we figured there must be an important reason. It turns out that grow tubes have multiple significant uses and benefits, among them facilitating quick, upward growth, protecting from harmful animals and pests, defending against the drift of pesticides, shielding from adverse and moisture-starving effects of wind, and creating beneficial greenhouse effects of drawing in warmth from the sun and promoting moisture at the base of the vine’s trunk. The trellis then helps to promote the proper upward growth and the interweaving of the vine with the rest of the vines in a mutually-beneficial way.
Fast-forwarding to this past weekend, when our son Jared attended his very first men’s retreat with me, I reflected how I was starting to see him beginning to mature. With the inevitability of the struggles that all of us go through in life, it hit home to me how incredibly important it is with our kids – and with ourselves – that we equip them (and us) and ground them (and us) properly. As I read through Acts 9 – 18 a section drove me deeper in my thinking. Acts 14:19-22 …
Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and turned the fickle crowd against them. They beat Paul unconscious, dragged him outside the town and left him for dead. But as the disciples gathered around him, he came to and got up. He went back into town and the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe. After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”
Focus on that last set of statements … “urging [the disciples] to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy.” Can anyone relate? I sure can, and that came into vividly clear focus this weekend as I watched Jared and five other of his 18 year-old buddies at our men’s retreat.
If you’re a parent, I don’t have to tell you how distressing it is to raise kids today. Because life is hard? Yes. And the Christian life is hard too. As Luke recounts life in the early church, he certainly shares many of those trials that the disciples and he underwent. We will too. Our kids will, too. How do we ensure that we can face that reality, whether on our own behalf or on our kids’? I think it’s about the trellis and the grow tube.
Of course, Helen and I have no idea what lay ahead for our kids, what trials they’ll encounter, or how they’ll respond to them. But throughout our Christian walk, Helen and I have endeavored to not stop wining … that is, to plant our kids to promote upright and strong growth, to ensure that there are trellises of faith in Jesus that will help give them a stable platform for growth. Of course, through their younger years, we made sure to provide grow tubes, curating them through instruction in the Word of God and fellowship among other Christian families and friends at church, in serving others the way Jesus instructed us to. By our (or at least Helen’s) example (in my case, most of the time), we worked to create a grow tube around them that would not just promote quick, upward growth, but also ensure protection against pests (our society, culture, and our enemy Satan), defending against the drift of pesticides of temptation and carnality, shielding from adverse and moisture-starving effects of wind by ensuring when it blows they are built on a firm foundation, and drawing in warmth from the Son and promoting moisture by His living water.
We fully expect that these steps we’ve taken, and taken imperfectly in all honesty, won’t serve as a panacea against undesirable behaviors or tribulation in their lives, but we hope that when those times come, our investment will help to stimulate a quick and lasting recovery. But it’s not just our kids – or kids in general – that need to not stop the wining. We all do.
Through our pursuit of God’s word and our application to our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we ensure we grow with the aid of a spiritual trellis. It guides our growth and unites it with the rest of the vines in God’s family. The rewards are mutually beneficial, and when one of the vines needs incremental support for growth, the other vines add what the individual vine on its own can’t sustain. When we start in faith, we should rely on the grow tube working through the basics of spiritual practice … Bible study, prayer, fellowship. Eventually, however, the grow tube needs to be removed in order for full maturity to be achieved. The full maturity that produces healthy, delicious fruit … for the wine Maker to use for His eventual purposes. If we never advance beyond the grow tube, we’ll never be able to achieve the full growth for which we are planted.
What about you? Are you planted adjacent to and aided by a spiritual trellis? Are you at an early place where you need the grow tube and perhaps chose previously to forego it? Or are you expecting to grow further but still are encumbered by the grow tube that was useful early but constraining now? There’s analogously a model we can follow, and thank God that we also have a Vine Grower who stands at the ready to help promote the growth that will yield the best fruit! Let’s commit this week to prayer to Him who wants to provide the love, care, and attention necessary and without which we’ll simply dry up and be destroyed.
By all means, don’t quit your wining.
Soli Deo gloria!