We have been living in the Alsace wine country–one of the regions in France that is famous for its wines. The hills around our village are covered in vineyards. Really, the entire region is covered in vineyards. One of the most fascinating parts of our stay has been watching the work of the vineyards through the seasons. As a person of faith, watching the work firsthand has deepened my understanding of the scriptures, especially where vineyards are used in parables.
There is always something happening out in the vineyards. Even now, in the middle of winter, there are workers out in the vineyards pruning the plants that need to be pruned and burning little piles of dead branches. It isn’t fast work. There are never a ton of people out in the fields–but it seems like there is always someone working away and caring for the plants.
We arrived just before the harvest when the leaves were full and dark green, and all of the plants were covered in bouquets of grapes.
At this stage, there were sometimes little tiny one-person tractors that drove in-between the rows and trimmed the grass or did other maintenance.
The next month was the harvest, which featured yellow plastic tubs everywhere. Tractors pulling trailers clogged up traffic, but everyone seemed to understand that this was necessary work and drove slowly and patiently behind them.
In the mornings, the yellow tubs in the trailers were empty, but by late afternoon they had always been filled. Workers would even put straps on the tubs and wear them as backpacks as they walked through rows and rows of vines, harvesting.
At some point, and it happened very quickly and efficiently, all the grapes were off of the vines. The weather got colder, and soon the leaves on the vines began to turn colors. And still, the work in the vineyards continued–picking up fallen leaves, replacing wires that stabilized the plants, trimming. In some cases entire fields were removed and replanted.
Winter came and all of the leaves are gone, revealing the support systems for the vines and thousands of gnarly wooden nubs. It is amazing the bounty that flows from such unassuming little bits of wood.
There are still workers out in the fields every day, bundled up in their winter clothes, quietly and patiently tending to each plant. And I am sure that the work will continue into the spring.
Scriptures and Vineyards
The scriptures use vineyards as a metaphor. We see this in Isaiah 5 with the parable of the vineyard, and in the LDS tradition, we also see it in Jacob 5 with the allegory of the olive tree. In both cases we see God trying REALLY HARD to take care of his vineyards, which symbolize His children. He and his helpers are doing all of the things–they are pruning, and fertilizing, and grafting, and building rock walls and watchtowers. I can imagine God driving around in His tiny one-person tractor and then sending out his workers with their yellow buckets at harvest time.
Now that I have had the opportunity to observe this process in real life, I have a little more of a sense of what these parables mean. God in investing a lot in us, every single day and in the off-season. At the same time, He is patiently waiting for us to grow and to become everything we were meant to become. Now, I know there are a lot more angles from which to look at these parables–and I’m not trying to oversimplify them. But my time here observing French vineyards has made the work of this process real for me in a way it hasn’t been before. It has helped me to see more fully God’s love, His tender care, and how much He wants to help us manifest abundance in our lives–if we will simply let Him.
For more thoughts on what I’ve learned in France, check out 25 Reflections: Joy of Walking.