In February, when we first arrived in the southern part of France, all the vineyards were bare. They were gnarled trunks, devoid of leaves, branches or any signs of being alive. They were dormant, a condition the dictionary describes as “biological rest or suspended animation”. I watched the vineyards near our residence daily for any evidence of life. Since we’ve lived on the equator for much of the last eight years I’ve missed the turning of the seasons and the breaking of winter with the first signs of spring. This year, I hoped to have a front row seat for that annual reawakening from the sleep of winter in a place so lush with horticulture. I was not disappointed!
By mid-March, a few green sprigs began to emerge from the dead-looking trunks. There vines were not dead! Within their veins new life was pushing out in bright green sprigs of baby leaves. Over a few days nearly every vineyard we rode past was giving testimony to this turning of the season and the unstoppable force of life bursting forth. Always a joy to see this dramatic transformation of winter to spring, dormant to awake, seemingly dead to new spring green, this transition was particularly poignant to me. Death tolls from coronavirus were increasing every day in Italy, Spain and France (where we were). Much of the world was in grief, despair, lament, horror, sickness and death.
But not the vines. The vines were bursting with new growth, with the promise of flowers, fruit and produce. As were the almond trees, peach trees and a whole variety of other produce grown in the region.
This became a daily, tangible image of hope for me over the weeks we lived under French confinement. An image strong enough to confront the grim realities of the daily news cycle. It spoke of the unseen force of life that renews, restores and is not controlled by anyone other than the Author of Life. It reminded me of God’s promise that He is making all things new. It humbled me to marvel at the goodness of God that is always there even when I can’t see it. Daily this testimony gave witness to me to not despair or be afraid, for just as new life springs forth from seemingly dead trunks so too the life of God’s spirit in us will bring forth the everlasting fruit of love. Then I began to see the ways that Spirit of Love was also springing forth in the world—in the nightly cheers to health care workers across the different countries, in the creativity of people using music and art to lift others up through the internet, in the adherence to confinement orders out of the respect and value of human life and in so many unknown, sacrificial acts of kindness and care.
I am encouraged to live in the promise of new life in connection to Love. I know I can only do that if I’m connected to the source of life, the Author of Love. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) My desire and hope is to stay connected to the Vine and bear the fruit of love—new life—even as I’ve witnessed this season in nature and in others.