Early this morning as I was praying and reading my morning devotions, I came across this verse and a story by Joni E. Tada.
John 15:8 – This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Joni writes of a visit with a friend who grows several rare varieties of grapes on the hillsides behind his house. She was surprised that the vines were planted on the steep and rocky parts of the hillside rather than at the base where the soil was better.
The friend smiled and said: “There’s a rule you need to remember when it comes to growing grapes. When you feed them luxuriously with lots of nutrients and fertilizer, the vine produces a healthy bush of leaves and cane but the fruit is sparse and very poor. The plant loves lots of fertilizer but it invests those nutrients into beautiful leaves and when the vine is finished doing that there is very little energy left to produce fruit. However, to grow good grapes you have to make sure the vine struggles! You plant it in rocky, flinty soil or you girdle the vine by wrapping wires around the cordons, forcing the plant to struggle as it tries to draw nutrients from the soil. This causes the distressed vine to divert most all of its prized and hard-won nutrients into the fruit, instead of the leaves. The result of these trials and tribulations is the sweetest fruit possible!”
I will never look at vines and the grapes they produce in quite the same way again.
It’s especially interesting that Joni would use this story considering the trials and tribulations she has been through since the diving accident she experienced as a teenager paralyzed her from the neck down. In the midst of her struggles Joni E. Tada has done far more than survive. She thrives and produces lush fruit through her testimony shared with millions through her public speaking and writing. At the conclusion of this story, Joni writes:
“So… maybe the rocky soil and steep inclines in your life aren’t so bad after all. The trials and struggles, disappointments and setbacks you face, this ‘girdling’ that presses you in from all sides… is a bruising of blessing. And you won’t bear a worthwhile crop without it.”
Think about your life as a vine and the struggles you have endured. Then remember the verse from the Gospel of John: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Joni’s prayer following the devotion sums it up: “Lord, when this life is all over and I stand before you, I want you to find sweet fruit in my life… and not just leaves.”