Have you ever blown a balloon up too much? The air inside of it stretches the laytex or rubber so far that it simply cannot contain it – and then it POPS!
Similarly, wineskins were used to hold – you guessed it – wine. But they were a bit more temperamental. After an animal skin was shed and prepared to hold the liquid, you had to be careful with what came in contact with the vessel. Smoke or prolonged direct sunlight would damage the elasticity of the skin, causing it to crack and pull until it could no longer hold its contents. It, too, would be damaged beyond repair.
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.Psalm 119: 83
So, if the surroundings of a wineskin determine its usefulness and strength, how much more do they affect us, as humans?
Our placement should be purposeful.
We will eventually experience a hardship that puts our faith to the test – our own fire, if you will. The smoke will make us choke for new air. The heat will make us uncomfortable and seek shelter in things that we should not run to. Not only that, but what’s inside of us – the nourishing hope that gives us life – will eventually sour and leak. And that’s when we go in search for new wine.
This is a very tender spot to be. Some call it “rock bottom,” some call it “potential.” I think it’s mostly an opportunity. And you can squander it or seize it – but you’re the only person that can get yourself out of those surroundings, with Jesus of course.
Do you remember the parable of the sower that Jesus told the large, gathering crowds?
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”Matthew 13:3-9
Just like the wineskin and its climate, the seed of the sower only grows depending on where it is planted.
What does this mean for us?
I think it’s a good time of year to stop and look at things around you. Are the bills piling up? Do your friends really act like your friends? Does your workplace have your back? Are you in a good place with Jesus? …not in that order 😉
If you answered no to any of those, you might need to plan to look for better soils. Your surroundings are killing your planted seed. Your wineskin is about to burst. You cannot keep forcing a smile while the cracks run deeper.
You know… a wineskin is only good for one batch of wine. After the liquid is gone, the whole skin needs to be replaced before new wine can be taken on. Why? Because it’s stretched and expanded to that batch of wine. New wine would be no good.
It’s the same way for you – you cannot continue to fill yourself with better things if your wineskin isn’t ready for them. Work on mending and replacing the vessel before you take on bigger or better.
Where you choose to place yourself determines what you will produce.