‘The time has arrived for pruning the vines…’
Song of Songs 2:12
If there is anything that helps us understand a concept, it’s a visual. Jesus understood this, which is why He used things of nature and everyday living to illustrate principles of Life from His Father’s perspective.
For anyone who has ever potted a plant, mowed a lawn, trimmed hedges, limbed trees, weeded the beds, planted seedlings, collected autumn leaves,…there’s a tactile sense of the changing of the seasons. When tucked inside, a glance out the window is all it takes for us to see what has been cared for and what remains in need of some human touch.
The Bridegroom’s glance out the window and his proclamation that the winter was past signaled the next phase of His developing the life and heart of the beloved. Announcing that ‘the time has arrived for pruning the vines’ – He was, in essence, beginning the first steps in tutoring her participation with him.
There is a vast difference between working for the Lord and working with the Lord. To the degree that He has not been allowed access to the interior workings of one’s heart, the fruitfulness He desires suffers. When, however, humility puts on her brave face and resists pride’s overtures, the Beloved lends His strong arm to bear up and sustain the humbled heart through the needful days of reduction.
There are lessons to be learned in the vineyard. Let’s go spend some necessary time there.
As I researched information about viticulture, I found the ‘reasons and rules’ of pruning grapevines to be astoundingly pertinent to our spiritual development, especially as pictured in the Bride’s progression in the Song of Songs. It is a full circle that connects the Old Testament with its reach into the New Testament and further expands into the very lives we are living right now.
Bridegroom that He is, no wonder Jesus took the time and care to teach the message of John 15 to His disciples, then and now. He bore within Him the knowledge of the pending separation. His call to ‘come away’ in the Song of Songs was the same instruction to ‘get up’ that He gave in the last verse of John 14. In both instances, the vineyard was the next place to which He led those whom He loved and cared for.
He still leads us out to the vineyard today.
For the novice or even the more experienced pruner, standing in front of a bunch of tangled branches and shoots gone wild can induce at the least, a wondering where to begin and at most, a fear of starting.
It helps to keep two essentials in mind as one embarks on the pruning process:
– Don’t be afraid to cut. When finished, approximately 90% of last year’s growth will be reduced.
– Grapevines are vigorous and forgiving. Mistakes may be made, but it’s not the end of the world. You get a chance to fix it next year.
And here we have the first key:
Pruning is to be done every single year, for grapes bear fruit
only on the green shoots arising from one-year old vines.
For those of us who live in parts of the world where winter coincides with the holidays, there are cultural practices that nevertheless remain in need of being attended to in the life of the vineyard. It is the ‘activity of dormancy‘ that, if left unattended, will have an adverse effect on the next year’s crop – or fruitfulness.
Which leads us to a next important key:
Timing is everything. Pruning is only to be engaged in after leaf fall, for good reason.
Leaf fall occurs in late autumn or throughout the winter. Remember terroir – the situation in which wine is made, or as the French roughly translate, a ‘sense of place’? Leaf fall in the vineyard – and in the soil of our lives – occurs in relationship to the factors of its environment.
When the leaves have fallen, the vascular system becomes inactive and plugs up. Prior to leaf fall, there is a steady transfer going on from the leaves into the permanent, woody structure of the vine. Minerals and carbohydrates are being stored there for the winter.
Why is this important?
If the pruning is done before leaf fall, it can affect the storage process leading to mineral deficiencies and poor bud maturation. Both of these can in turn affect the growth of the vine and the crop in the next season.
Without buds, there is no fruit. Again, timing is everything. When the pruning is done within the dormant season may also affect the time of bud break. For those vines being cultivated in frost-prone areas, a late season pruning may provide a needed delay in bud break, desirable for its protection.
Grapes are best pruned in the Spring (February, March, or even early April where I live) rather than in the late autumn or early winter. Otherwise, if pruned too early a hard frost in late winter can cause damage to the canes and buds.
The wise and caring husbandman takes the time and makes the effort to tend his vineyard well. Our heavenly Husbandman does no less with us, for He well knows how we are made. Yet, it is our cooperation with Him that affects the growth and preparation of a Bride without spot or blemish.
Join me next time for more lessons from the vineyard ~ Gracefully Free
Shammahs Field LLC/Shammah Ministries is the biblical counseling, life coaching, and spiritual growth ministry entrusted to Wayne & Nancy Bentz. You can learn more about the resources they have to offer at shammahsfield.com and nancybentz.com.