For the past couple of years my husband has been helping to build a winery, a job that has been a great blessing to us all.
I enjoy wine making, the process, the miraculous nature of wine. For those who don’t know, in the olden days wine was about the only thing safe to drink. Without water purification, drinking water can be a risky business, a bit of a gamble really. With wine there are really only too possible options, wine or vinegar, and as bad as vinegar can taste, it’s actually rather good for you, with many health benefits.
In my neck of the woods everybody used to make wine, out of grapes, blackberries, even stinging nettles and dandelions. With a bit of ginger root and lemon, even nettles will give you a light, bubbly champagne. I’m really not a big drinker, but I have enjoyed making wine a few times. It’s a relatively simple process at home.
To make wine, one must first press grapes. You have to crush your fruit, stomp it, press it. In Italy we used to have the women who would jump in a vat of grapes and squish them with their bare feet. Perhaps we still do, but most people just press the grapes, basically wringing them out, releasing their juices.
Today our pastor spoke about being in a winepress too, about how God sometimes puts us in a winepress. Not all trouble is of the enemy, and not all trouble is actually “bad,” some of it is put there to lovingly stretch us, to release the essence of who we are, like squishing grapes.
In the West here, we’ve kind of developed this attitude that all suffering is bad, that if we are not prosperous, healthy, joyous, and comfortable, we must be doing something wrong. Lost in there somewhere is a recognition of the value of suffering, an acknowledgment that suffering can serve a vital purpose in the world. In our own worlds.
Job is one of my favorite books in the bible because it captures this idea so well. At the very start we have, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”
God doesn’t hate Job at all, there are none like him on the earth, a perfect and upright man, but Job is about to go into the winepress.
I have been squished more than a few times, like a tiny little grape, and it has taken years for me to say thank you Lord, thank you for blessing me with these struggles. Without grief one never knows what it is to truly love, and without knowing the value to be found in suffering, one cannot truly understand the price that was paid on our behalf.
Luke 7:47, one of my favorites says, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
All in good gallows humor here, but one of the best ways to discover any impurities within your soul, any left over residual sin, is to just fall head first into the winepress.