I tell people the Lord called me home to “take care of my vineyard”. This has a Scriptural context to a passage in Song of Solomon. The Lord used the passage at a women’s retreat several years ago to confirm His calling out of my corporate career. I have often joked about the “big rocks” and “weeds” in my vineyard, making light of the difficult task my transition home has been, and the difficult work I’ve faced in my vineyard.
The prophet Isaiah sang a song about God’s vineyard: His people Israel. “I will sing for the one I love a song about His vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines….He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit” . He then asks a question, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Is. 5:1-4).
This is the question I’ve been asking lately as I’ve surveyed the past years of my oldest son’s life. There is an extensive, bone-weary record of all my attempts to get to the bottom of his behavioral problems. Doctors, treatments, counseling, school conferences, interventions, and discipline measures. The last three years has been an all out, toe-to-toe battle for fruit-bearing ground. I described my position as “towing the line”; a stand-off with clear boundaries and climate control for my vineyard. My son has plowed through every parameter, trampling on tender plants and leaving a wasteland. Like the song foretells, “I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled, I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated” (Is. 5:5, 6).
My tears spilled over in worship yesterday, listening to the words of another song, “All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way? I wonder if my life could really change at all? All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground at all? You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust, You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us” (Beautiful Things, Artist: Gungor).
It is a decisive step of faith for me to believe that God is making something beautiful out of these desolate ruins. When my son was convicted and sent to juvenile prison, I kept thinking, “Filthy rags…all my efforts are but filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Yet, something else was happening in this moment of confessed weakness and grief. As I unclenched my dirt-smudged hands and lifted them in worship, my heart’s desires released into the air like seeds caught in the current of God’s Mighty Grace-wind. All I could hear were God’s songs of deliverance. Hope sprouted, like the second verse of the song, “All around, Hope is springing up from this old ground, Out of chaos life is being found in You”.
Grace saturates our parched places when we let go of our own abilities to take care of our vineyards. As we lift our small patches of ground in worship, we realize the larger field we belong to in God’s Kingdom. We labor in our gardens, though they are broken, trodden, crushed, barren. We proclaim that our God grows fruit-bearing lives. He has appointed us to bear fruit that lasts: fruit of lips that confess His name; fruit that keeps with repentance. We are all but wild olive trees grafted into the Vine of Christ. It is the Holy Root that makes us holy. Our Father is a wonder-working, beauty-from-ashes Gardener. He rebuilds ancient ruins and restores places long devastated.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end…to find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, 13).
We are God’s fellow workers; our vineyards are God’s field. We plant and water, each rewarded according to his own labor (1 Cor. 3:6-9). Let us rejoice and be satisfied in doing the work assigned to us, for we know the eternal glory of God’s Grace will far outweigh our troubles.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
He is making beautiful things. Broken, earthen, grace-filled vessels that reveal God’s all surpassing power to make all things new in Christ.
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy…As there is no birth without travail, so is there no spiritual harvest without painful tillage. When our own hearts are broken with grief at man’s transgression we shall break other men’s hearts: tears of earnestness beget tears of repentance: “deep calleth unto deep.”…Let us keep to the work of this present sowing time, and find strength in the promise which is here so positively given us. Here is one of the Lord’s shalls and wills; it is freely given both to workers, waiters, and weepers, and they may rest assured that it will not fail: “in due season they shall reap….” – Charles Spurgeon