I wish I were a better gardener, because there is nothing in the world like the satisfaction of harvesting food that has been planted and grown in one’s own backyard—to see the magical transformation from bud to flower to fruit.
Yesterday, I picked grapes from two vines planted in my back yard six years ago. Despite enjoying too little sun and enduring too much rain, there was still a fair pile of tart morsels. Not quite ripe, but it was best to pick them before the greedy birds gobbled them up.
I remember when I planted them. Still a tender green and soft from the nursery, they were like visions and desires planted deep in the heart, which is also like the ground that received them.
And then I waited. And waited. And waited. One season passed, and then another. Then four, then five. Hopes, dreams, visions…I wait for them, too.
There’s a time and purpose for everything under heaven, Solomon said, but you can forget that if you grow tired of waiting…just like you can forget about the vines. You can either carefully tend them, pruning, weeding, enriching the soil in faith, or you can stop trusting that one day, they’ll bear fruit.
The more I waited, the more I noticed how brown, gnarly and tough the vine became. Today, it twists and turns every which way, and has become remarkably prolific through many seasons when it seemed like nothing would ever come of it. Try as it might, even the Virginia Creeper (a very bossy plant) growing on the neighbour’s fence behind can’t seem to overtake it. Hardships do the same thing for our visions.
And then, one gleeful day you see them, little bunches of round grapes, reddish-purple and lovely. But the work still isn’t over. What’s to be done with them after they’re gathered up?
Separate twigs from fruit, and skins from pulp until your purple fingers are stiff and sore, that’s what. Prepare bottles and work through finicky recipes and worry that the jam won’t set if you do it wrong. But usually it does, and you’re relieved when you hear the lids go “pop.”
You know what my favourite part of the whole process is? Writing “grape jelly,” and the year, on cute little round stickers you buy in the jam and jelly section of the grocery store and sticking them perfectly on the bottle. It’s the final stamp on something handmade, yours from start to finish.
But the greatest pleasure is giving a bottle away, so that some lucky person can enjoy the fruits of your labour, too. It doesn’t matter how many hours or seasons are wrapped up in that one little bottle, so easily consumed. Isn’t that what all our labours should be for? Not just to wallow in the harvest ourselves, but to generously share in fellowship with others.
That’s what faith is: continuing to tend the vine so that everyone can enjoy the fruit.