Last year, I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a business trip to Napa, California. As you may know, this area is known as wine country: the home of hundreds of miles of gently rolling hills, uniquely beautiful architecture and acres and acres of breathtaking vineyards. In my attempt to be a supportive and loving wife, I soldiered through several days of tasting fine wine, dining on culinary masterpieces and meeting fascinating people who drink good wine and eat good food for a living. Having a husband in the restaurant business clearly has its perks!

On our first day in Napa, my husband and I began our wine tasting adventure by accompanying one other couple to their favorite winery. The young woman who was our hostess for the private tasting immediately won me over by being adorable and having the same name as one of my daughters. Brooke, the wine expert, soon became our new best friend.

Brooke seated us in comfy chairs with a heavenly view of the vineyards and taught us all about the process by which grapes become wine. She showed us samples of the dirt from their different vineyards and explained how the type of soil informs the distinct personalities of the different wines we were tasting. At one point in our conversation, in discussing irrigation processes in rocky soils, she said these words:

“We want the vines to struggle. Vines that struggle produce better fruit.”

I asked her to repeat what she had just said and started scribbling furiously on my placemat, a blog post percolating.

She went on to explain that when the vines struggle to get water and nutrients from the soil, they form stronger, deeper roots. These stronger, deeper roots bring forth fruit that is richer, fuller, bigger, juicier and, simply put, make better wine. In grape growing and wine making, struggling is encouraged, promoted and celebrated.

Isn’t that good news? Does anyone else find it a relief to know that, in nature, struggling vines produce better fruit?

Or is that just me?

Does anyone else seem to do things the hard way? Make the easy, complicated? The simple, confusing? The straightforward, hard?

What does struggling look like? Perhaps the following synonyms from the dictionary definition of struggle give us some insight: “Fight, wrestle, grapple, strive, endeavor, compete, contend, scramble, flounder, stumble.” Several of these words, particularly the last few, feel familiar to me.

Even when the grappling, floundering and wrestling is all within the confines of my own mind, it often seems like others are taking a more direct path to achieving their goals and getting things done. When I compare my insides with other people’s outsides, it often appears to be easier for them.

But what if the struggling, the wrestling, the stumbling, the wandering is all part of the journey?

What if the learning and growth happens through the struggling and not in spite of the struggling?

What if, as part of that process, we learn to struggle well? To struggle wisely?

I prefer things to come easily. I would like to wave a magic wand and become instantly self-disciplined, focused, inspired, devout and efficient. In fact, I would prefer if someone else actually waved the wand. I would like to be cured of procrastination and self-indulgence and wake up every morning ready to seize the day.

But alas, it appears that struggling is part of the process. When I wrestle with things I find difficult or hard to understand, I am reminded of these two things:

  • I am a child of God, and he is with me every step of the way. I never struggle alone.
  • Because of Jesus, I have the Spirit of God within me. That Spirit is not a spirit of timidity or fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Because I struggle with life-giving power on my side, I never struggle in vain.

For me and for grapevines, struggling is part of the process. For me and for grapevines, deeper and stronger roots connect us to the source of that which gives us life. For me and for grapevines, it is God that ultimately brings whatever fruit we bear.

I’m not sure if the grapevines have an opinion, but I am willing to work a little harder and dig a little deeper in order to grow the richer, fuller, juicier fruit. Like a fine wine, the fruit my life produces may be more beautiful from the effort I spend struggling well.

Originally published on Kelly Johnson Grace Notes.

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