Last week my vineyard mentor sent me pictures of his summer grapevine pruning and prompted me to do the same. I was reminded to look at my vineyard with a farmer’s eye. A farmer is not impressed with huge, winding green vines dancing all over the place; she recognizes that all the excess greenery is stealing energy from the grapes. It’s critical to train the plant in a way that maximizes fruit production and also allows sunshine to reach the berries and adequate air flow to prevent mold and disease.
I find pruning and thinning to be a challenging process, and I think this is true for many beginning gardeners. We are so excited to see things grow- why would we ever want to kill or thwart that process? Well, because it’s necessary to manage plants in order to maximize the harvest. I can grow one hundred super tiny carrots or forty really big ones- less is more in this case. It’s not that healthy vines or little carrots are bad- but if the goal is producing carrots or grapes then we must actively manage the process. We know this principle to to be true for life as well. Our time, money and energy are limited resources and we want to invest wisely- not haphazardly grow vines and never get to producing fruit. Or smothering what fruit we do have and blocking the Son (sun) and Holy Spirit (air) with the vines of busyness and distraction. They might be really good vines with really good intentions, but do we want leaves or grapes? A successful vintner regularly prunes.
I watched a few YouTube videos before bravely donning gloves and chopping away. As usual, my mind and spirit are inspired as I labor in the garden. I prayed and tried to listen as I worked. Here are a few snippets of our conversation.
Father, these grapevines are so beautiful- each wavy leaf is a work of art and they labor so hard converting sunshine to energy for the plant. I really hate to cut them off!
Daughter, each one of those shoots grows in its own direction and puts all the energy into growing itself; they must be trained into the vine and encouraged to focus on fruit, not themselves. I am the vine, you are the branch. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Father, the vintners only allowed one or two bunches of grapes per spur. I was shocked to see them cut off bunches of fruit- but then I noticed how much smaller the pruned grapes were and realized the small ones would prevent the primary bunches from reaching their full size, flavor and sweetness. And some of the workers even cut off the bottoms of the primary cluster in order to pour all the energy into producing a few really good grapes. In that moment I realized my misunderstanding of fruit production. It’s not about quantity, is it? What does this mean for me?
My daughter, every branch that bears fruit, I prune it so that it may bear more fruit. You have wrongly thought that I pruned only what was bad or dead, but sometimes I prune off what is good and producing in order to focus on something greater. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. Trust me. My pruning is not about discipline; it is about love and sweet fruit and amazing wine.
After the pruning comes harvest, and after the harvest there is pressing and fermenting and waiting. When it is time, we will have a wedding and once again I will produce heavenly wine. It will be your story. I am glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciple.
Father, I know there are many varieties of grapes and each season, soil type and vine produces different kinds of wine. My fruit will be different from the next vine. Sometimes that makes me feel insecure, and I worry I am not what I ought to be. Father, please prune me and make me fruitful. I just want to please you. I want your Son to reach all the crevasses and your Spirit to freely flow through me.
Daughter, if you keep my commandments and abide in my love, My joy will be in you and your joy will be made full. I will be faithful to water and prune; you will produce pleasing fruit as you abide in me. The peace, joy and satisfaction you find working in this little garden, I understand and experience myself. Remember, I started this whole thing in a garden. I love being here with you. I love you
I love you too, Daddy.