“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
I recently read a column written by Joni E. Tada. She describes 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 must remember when growing grapes. If 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 of poor quality. The plant loves fertilizer but invests those nutrients into beautiful leaves and when the vine is finished there is little energy to produce fruit.
However, to grow good grapes you 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 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. Can this story be used to describe our own walk with God? To produce good fruit, we must first experience struggles?
It’s especially interesting that Joni would use this story considering her own trials and tribulations since the diving accident 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 in 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.”