I was patting my baby bump and not partaking of the vineyard scents by way of a glass. Surrounded by Catholic faithful dears, I was happy to soak up the wine-tasting experience accompanied by lilting music. As the sommelier made his debut, my mind drifted, the description of one variety sounding similar to the next to my untrained mind. However, on the fourth round, my attention is caught and drawn in by the narrative. The story behind this particular rich, smoky, red wine unfolded like a parable. He explained that the wine’s distinctive, desirable, flavored nuances were unique, not only to a region, but to an uncanny phenomenon. He referenced the devastating California fires that wildly broke havoc and hearts in recent seasons. The layer of ash had settled on the ground and sunk into the vineyard’s earth. The fear of tainted wine from the devastating fires was an obvious concern to wine enthusiasts. Paradoxically, in the case of this wine, the layering of ash had created a depth of desirable flavor in the aftermath that could not have been arranged or repeated in any other way. How uncanny. Redemption.
I began to survey the ground of my own life-vineyards—the past roots from girlhood and even those places that have appeared as pure devastations in my adult life. I have weathered disaster at times. Ask me how I know this: when you are in the fire, well, it’s hot. Devastation can be genuine injustice. How taunting the sinking hopelessness of taint appears.
I know that I am not alone.
I know of sisters who have been robbed of unspeakable things. I know of mothers who have born unfathomable grief. The aftermath varies. But always the enemy of our souls seeks to steal worth, holy confidence, and potential in our vocation. In our humanity, we begin down that slippery, dark path of defining ourselves by what has been burned and all that has been lost. But I know this: it is God’s heart to redeem our ashes if we allow him access to our most devastated pains. If we turn to him, he longs “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). Even those places we would rather not reveal, he promises to tenderly heal, redeem, and make as inroads for gateways of his glory. We must turn to the master of new wine, to Jesus. It was his new wine that brought reconciliation and the coming of the Holy Spirit—he gave his love, his power, and his sound-mindedness to us (2 Timothy 1:7). This is a wine with such depth, it can bring paradoxical restoration.
Will you stand with me? Will you guard your joy from being tainted when your heart feels like scorched earth? Will you resist seeing only through the eyes of finite humanity, and silence the whispering of the enemy with the truth of the cross? Will you fix your eyes on all the goodness that God is surrounding you with in his real-time, sufficient grace? Will you seek the beauty he is faithfully bringing? Then you and I will not forego the gift of irreplaceable depth, richness, and kingdom-aroma he is instilling in us even now.