The Crush

So I am a wine lover, and honestly a bit of a wine snob.  Over the past decade I have made several spectacular trips to Napa Valley, and even to Italy, where I’ve tasted fabulous wine and learned about the process of growing the grapes and making the wine.

I have discovered that when the sun is hot and the grapes are left dry and struggling a bit, the fruit is sweetened and the wine those grapes yield is more sophisticated.  Cooler climates allow slower ripening, producing wines with more complexity.  However, to bring that sweetness and complexity into the wine, the grapes must be crushed.

In winemaking “The Crush” is the process of gently squeezing the grapes and breaking the skins to start to liberate the contents.

Liberate the contents.

I like the way that sounds.  I want the contents of my heart and soul liberated.  But I am confronted by my own perception that the winemaker who holds the contents of my heart and soul will not be gentle.

A few days ago, as I drove through the cornfields on the way home from dropping my little girls at school I felt the weight of my son’s absence pressing down on my heart; I miss him.  I could feel myself resist the pressing with words in my head like, “it is so good for him to be away at school” and “this is everything you had hoped for him”, as if I could stop the weight by telling myself something positive. I am so afraid of feeling the weight, the pressing, ”the crush”.

Last spring I made the decision to leave a job that I loved.  The job was in ministry, and in leaving there was the reality that something significant was ending.  I was in a small group with several friends who were also involved in the ministry and we were talking about endings and the ending of my time on staff.  I could feel the weight pressing down, squeezing my heart.  I lost my words; I didn’t know what to say and again I had that feeling of wanting to stop the crush.

For me the word “crushed” evokes images that are not pleasant.  I don’t imagine crushing as something gentle; it comes connected with things like:

Hopes crushed

Dreams crushed

Friendships crushed

Heart crushed

I don’t find myself dreaming or planning around the word crush.  I have resisted it.

And yet, there is the crushing of wine that I cannot escape. Pinot Noir is made using grapes that have been barely crushed; the content of the grape does not come into much contact with the skins.  Due to the lack of intensity in the crushing process, a Pinot Noir requires more grapes than other types of wine.  Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a deeper crushing where more of the skin and tannins are included in the final product; the grape is small with thick skin so the winemaker must leave the meat of the grape in contact with the skin for longer after the crushing in order to bring about the desired flavor.

Different grapes, different types of skin, various soils, changing climates all contribute to the process of making the wine.  And, so it is with my story.

The places of crushing in my story, where I’ve felt that weight bearing down on my heart, seemingly squeezing the life out of me, continue to unfold.   Some are recent and relatively simple, like my son’s absence as he’s away at college.  Others are heavier and more complex, like why we had to leave our home in Texas and the friendships there or the feelings of betrayal from lost relationships, or the places in my story of sexual abuse.

All these scenes yield something, and I get to choose what will happen after the crush, how I will respond.

Luscious Cabernet, Spicey Malbec, Buttery Chardonnay or gentle Pinot Noir, each one to be savored and sipped slowly in the company of friends who can appreciate the nuance and complexity.

Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12).  Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids.  After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.  Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.