We have a very large grape vine arbor in our back yard and this is the season of harvest. I spend hours upon hours picking those grapes and cooking them down into juice which will later be made into sweet jelly. Last year as I was enmeshed in this activity, I heard from a dear friend who was enduring much pain in her marriage. I told her what I had been busy doing, and she said "Anne, that's me! I feel like crushed grapes." So for all of you who are feeling like crushed grapes (and don't we all from time to time?) this one's for you...
I believe that you are the vine and I am the branches. You are sturdy, strong and life-giving. Your love flows into my branches and the fruit that I produce is fragrant and so sweet because of You. My deep, rich color is so attractive. I soak up the sunshine and revel in the beautiful, glorious life that You have blessed me with. I want my life to continue like this forever.
When You send your gardener to me, I am filled with joy. I think of how blessed I am to feel his gentle hands pluck my fruit from the branches and gently lay me in his basket.
But then, the gentleness turns to violence. His hands quickly pluck each of my grapes from the stem and toss them into a large kettle. Out comes the mallet and all I feel is pain as I am crushed to nothingness. I am little more than a jumbled heap of juice, seeds, skin and pulp. My beauty disappeared so quickly! I feel sticky and useless. What is your purpose, Lord? Why don’t You make him stop?
I’m not left to wonder in my misery for long, because an even more painful experience awaits me. I soon feel a fire burning beneath me and it quickly consumes me! I boil and froth. Can’t you hear me screaming in pain, Lord? Why is this happening? It’s so hot and I am in agony! I am stirred in fire so that not a single part of me gets left out of this pain. And then, slowly, I feel the fire beneath me diminish. But my pain does not diminish. It remains.
Now, I am poured out of the kettle and into the net. All of my sweet juice is drained out into the container below. Part of me has been separated from my original form. I am unrecognizable.
My pulp and my seeds which remain in the net are squeezed dry until they are useless, and they are tossed into to compost pile where the worms will turn them into dirt. Is that all I am to you, Lord, worthless dirt?
I hear You call to me to settle down. You say “Look what you will become. I have a higher purpose for you, but you could not attain it without first being separated from your original state, crushed into nothingness and purified in the fire. I am so sorry that you had to experience this pain. Believe me, I was crying and screaming and writhing right along with you."
"But now, you will become something even greater. The sweetness that is found in your juice has been concentrated so that it has become even sweeter. Sugar will be added to your juice to intensify your delectable flavor. You will have to be put on the fire again to purify you even more, but I know that you will be able to tolerate it, because I am with you in the fire and I love you, so much. When the heat becomes so strong that it is absolutely unbearable, you will be poured into a jar to contain you. You will be set on the windowsill in the path of the sunlight."
"You will shine and glisten and sparkle. Your deep, rich, purple color will become a clear jewel for all to see and enjoy; only now, you won’t be hidden under the leaves of the grape vine. You will be out in the open for everyone to see your glorious beauty. You will shine for me and I will shine in you."
"Children will see you and they will know immediately that you are something that they will enjoy immensely. They will be drawn to your rich color and your intense sweetness."
"You will be joyful because, by allowing yourself to be plucked, crushed and burned, you will have brought so much joy and love to the world around you. Through your new beauty, sweetness, clarity and brilliance you will draw more and more people directly to me. You are my instrument. This is your purpose. Don’t be afraid. I am with you every step of the way and I love you.”
Thank you God, for believing in me, for staying with me and for loving me. I am nothing without you, but, I am everything with you. Amen.