Cutting the Good to Get the Best | Wisdom from Italy
While traveling the back roads of Italy last month, my husband and I enjoyed driving the small gravel paths that led through vast olive groves and vineyards. Tall cypress trees dotted the landscape and sometimes seemed like guarding sentinels lining the road.
In some vineyards, weeds were growing around the vines, in some the vines were pruned carefully, and in some the ground had just been cultivated. On most of them, though, large clusters of red grapes hung, soaking in the sun and rain, as they finished out the last few weeks of maturation. Harvest would begin in September.
One day, we noticed there were clusters of grapes lying on the ground next to the vines. We pulled over to examine them, thinking it was a waste to lose such nice grapes just before harvest. And then we noticed grapes were on the ground all the way down the row. In fact, every row had clusters of grapes lying on the ground. When we picked up one of the grape clusters, it was obvious the stem had been cut.
We could not understand why so many grapes were eliminated. But maybe they were in the middle of the work and planned to use the cut grapes for some other purpose. We went back to the same vineyard two days later to see if the grapes had been gathered. But no, they were still lying on the ground, shriveling up in the heat of the sun.
Why would perfectly good grapes be thrown away? It seemed to be bad stewardship and they were the only vineyard in the area using this method.
Even though we don’t speak Italian, we had to know what was going on. We found two men working across the road, and between our broken Italian, their broken English and some sign language, they told us the answer.
“Ah yes,” one man said, smiling. “Every three, we cut one for the best quality of wine.”
One is sacrificed so the other three will produce a greater quality. There is nothing wrong with the one that is cut, but it must be eliminated in order to make the others better.
And their methods work. That vineyard produced one of Italy’s top 100 wines the previous year, a highly sought after distinction.
We pondered on the lesson from that vineyard for the rest of the trip. In truth, I am still thinking about its many layers of wisdom. For me, it was a reminder of Oswald Chambers’ reflection on the good versus the best in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest.
While the grapes lying on the ground were good, in order to get the best, they had to be cut. We are constantly faced with good things to do and good ways to spend our time and money; they present themselves and, just like those beautiful grapes, we can’t imagine the benefits of cutting them. Yet when we try to do it all and take every good opportunity that comes our way, we sacrifice the best quality of our lives.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2
Angela Correll is the author of Grounded.