I haven’t hosted a wedding yet, and as I have three sons, it looks like I will only be hosting rehearsal dinners unless the norms change in the next few decades. Rather than be sad about this reality, it makes me sigh with relief, as I am not a natural party planner or host. I feel nervous when I host birthday parties, and those stakes and expectations are not nearly as high.
That being said, I feel strangely drawn to the account of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Today, the scene came to life in my imagination, namely because I feel like I can relate to the feelings of the host who ran out of wine.
The story resonates with me, not because I am accustomed to throwing parties with huge amounts of wine, but because I know what it feels like to calculate and ration and still come up short.
When it comes to the tightrope act of attempting to balance motherhood and ministry, I try so very hard to plan head, to read the signals, to pace myself so that I have the best wine for the whole party. But I inevitably run out. Usually in the middle of the day or busy season or the month (or all of the above).
Looking around at the guests in my life, those whom the Lord has called me to invite into my life and soul and heart and capacity, I see thirsty crowds. I frantically look to the wine cellars of my soul and I find that I have nothing but tepid tap water to offer them.
The waves of shame commence: “But I thought I planned better than that. To whom did I offer too much wine? Were there guests who were not supposed to be here?”
I wonder if Mary felt the same feelings in her empathy for her host friend. I mean, after all, this is her first big request of her son who is gathering his disciples to enter into his public ministry. Clearly, this was a cause close to her heart.
In those days, to run out of wine at a wedding would have has strong social and cultural implications. It would have been, in a sense, to have been caught publicly with your pants down, in front of the whole town.
Mary begs her son to do something. Jesus pushes back for a brief moment, not because He is insensitive or unwilling to help, but because He knows what this first public miracle will set into motion. He pushes back on His mother who has a certain idea of what the Messiah-ship of Jesus will look like; He knew that this miracle would have set into motion the grinding gears that would lead to Him dying on the Cross. Such a weighty reality in the midst of a wedding feast would give anyone in their right mind pause.
Mary, in full confidence of her son, tells the servants of the bridegroom, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus takes over, bidding the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” which they did, quizzically I am certain. Jesus continued, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast,” which they did, reluctantly I imagine (John 2:7-8).
The master of the feast drinks it, calls the bridegroom and announces,”Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10).
While I cannot say I have ever seen Jesus turn water into wine physically, I have seen Him do this countless days and seasons when I have exhausted my storehouses of patience, perspective, wisdom, energy and peace (which happens on the regular in this home).
Looking out upon an insane February for our family with sports, ministry events, Bible studies and trips, I have already run out of wine and the month has not even begun.
This morning, in my preemptive exhaustion, the Lord reminded me of His miracle at the wedding feast.
He bid me bring my nasty tap water to him, and did so without shaming or chiding me. For He knows my frame, that I am but dust. He also knows that none of what I keep in my short storehouses was ever mine anyway.
He loves when I finally run out of “my own” resources, because when I do such, I look to Him in desperate dependance. I finally have a heart that is ready to, as Mary bid, “do whatever he commands.”
I love the hymn He Giveth More Grace, and one of the stanzas has been playing on repeat in my mind.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
He is the best wine.
In the words of George Herbert from his poem The Agony, “Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.”