For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? (Jeremiah 8:21-22 ESV)
It was just a single word, resounding in my mind as I passed from sleep to wakefulness: balsamic.
So curious! But every now and then, Papa God speaks to me this way. He drops a word or phrase into my consciousness, and then I get to investigate it with Him—kind of like unraveling a mystery or solving a puzzle together.
While investigating “balsamic,” I quickly discovered it is related to the words “balm” and “balsam.” Balsamic vinegar is thought to have curative, restorative properties—like the healing balm that comes from the gum of a balsam tree. All the way back to the time of the Roman Empire, the must (freshly crushed juice) of grapes—the key ingredient of balsamic vinegar—has been used both as medicine and as a seasoning or sweetener for food.
Another intriguing discovery was about the way some traditional balsamic vinegar is fermented. Sometimes called solera, this process involves a series of barrels, one for each year, ranging from the fresh grape must to balsamic vinegar that is ready to be bottled. The solera method is a mixed-age fermentation that combines balsamic at various stages of maturity.
So, for example, to make a 12-year balsamic using the solera process, some of the vinegar from the final barrel is drawn out and bottled. Then a similar amount is drawn from the 11-year barrel and poured into the 12-year barrel, then from the 10-year barrel into the 11-year barrel, on and on until some of the contents of the 1-year barrel are emptied into the 2-year barrel and room is made for a new batch of grape must in the first barrel. This means that the contents of each barrel is a mixture of various ages.
As I considered the things I was learning, I began to see a parable—something that Papa God wanted me to learn from balsamic vinegar. Our world is certainly in need of a curative, restorative balm—these days even more than when Father first brought balsamic vinegar to my attention about five years ago. What kind of balm will heal our wounds? What will soothe the sores and abrasions we have all experienced in 2020?
Jesus brings His curative power to the world through His people. In this season, I believe He is particularly highlighting the importance of a sort of solera, mixed-age balm for the world that occurs when His people of all generations and levels of maturity partner together.
As we work side-by-side with brothers and sisters of various ages and stages of life to make Jesus known, we release a fragrant, restorative balm that is desperately needed today. Let’s be balsamic people, partnering across the generations to bring a unique form of healing to the world around us.
Father God, You know what it means to be balsamic: You partner with Your Son Jesus to bring healing and restoration to our world. Please help me see how I can join hands across the generations to release Your mixed-age balm to those around me.
~ Kathryn Kircher