Today (or, yesterday now that it’s after midnight…) I visited the Biltmore Estate near Ashville, North Carolina. Eight thousand acres of beauty carved out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is a sight to behold. The family home, the centerpiece of the estate, is 175,000 square feet, 250 rooms of opulence personally designed by its primary resident, George Vanderbilt. The library, which of course was my favorite room, holds 23,000 volumes and was specifically designed to fit the grand, 13-canvas The Chariot of Aurora by Giovanni Pelligrini that looks down from above. A number of gardens grace the landscape surrounding the house; I would love to visit again when all in is in full bloom.
But as grand and beautiful as the Biltmore mansion is, the highlight of the trip for me was our tour of the Biltmore Winery. This was our first stop when we arrived on the grounds. The winery was founded by Vanderbilt’s great-grandson in the 1970s, and boasts an impressive collection of fine wines. Wine making is a long, arduous process. I would point you to this article for a detailed description of the process; but my focus was on the aging process. The first stop on our tour was a room filled with massive stainless steel barrels where the wine is aged. Depending on the desired end, wines can also be aged in oak barrels. This part of the process lasts for a three to six months, sometimes longer. And there is no rushing this stage, or any other stage of the process or making shortcuts. All the steps taken to make wine are integral to the quality of the final product. And this long, slow process in the barrels is part of that process.
Of course my mind immediately began making comparisons to our lives as Christians. When we first come to faith, we are embarking on a journey, a process. Our initial conversion is never the end, but the beginning of a new life. In Christ, we are positionally made righteous, holy and blameless before God. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. His perfect obedience is imputed to us. His death remits our payment for sin and His resurrection secures our eternal inheritance as children of God.
But we must grow into this new life. And this is a process – an aging process if you will – where all the impurities are drained away, and the true flavor and character of our Lord begins to take shape in our lives.
I cannot count how often I grow frustrated in the process. With myself for those faults and besetting sins that I struggle with day after day, constantly seeking forgiveness and strength from the Lord to fight. Even with God, because I feel the drag and pull of the small, daily baby steps that can often characterize my walk with Him. I will sit in His presence and say, “Lord, I am not where I want to be”. But the truth is I am exactly where He wants me in this time, in this season. And He knows the purpose for the season, for the waiting. He is crafting a fine wine, whose flavor will bless and nourish those around me in His time. He is building His character and His purposes into my heart, and only He knows the length of time it will take for that to be accomplished. Soon enough, I will be poured out for Him, and my life will blossom into a glorious array of aromas and flavors that will fulfill all His plans. Even as I wait, patiently, quietly (some of the time), I am being changed and purified, molded into the image of His Son.
We cannot see what is happening in those massive barrels. But at the end of our journey we were allowed to sample the finished product of all the waiting. It was nothing short of spectacular.
Oh that we would wait, and allow the Lord to craft us into His man or woman. My prayer is that we all would be content to rest in the Lord’s hands, knowing that He is the master Winemaker, and what He will ultimately craft in us will be nothing short of spectacular.
Grace and peace…