Viticulture is the science, production, and study of grapes. Over the past two years I have had an annual day of engaging in viticulture. I travel out to my wife’s hometown of Kostenets and trim the branches of the large vines that form a canopy over the yard of Sasha’s childhood home.
|Dave cutting the vines.|
It is a lot of work. I stand on a ladder or on the wall where the firewood is stored and trim branches off the vines with wire cutters. The entire task takes about two hours.
The thing that I find hardest about the annual pruning is not the cutting, or climbing, or even moving the ladder around the yard. The hardest part is the decision making. I have to decide what branches I want to cut to a medium length, what branches I want to cut to a short length, and what branches I cut off all together.
After last years trimming, I talked to our neighbor Metodi. He gave me tips on how to trim the vines. I employed his strategy this year.
Most of the branches need to be cut off. This is so that the vine is not putting unnecessary energy into keeping unproductive branches alive.
Some of the branches would be cut very short. Metodi recommended leaving just two buds on each branch. If just one bud remained there would be a lot of leaves but no fruit. If more than two or three buds remained there would be lots of fruit, but it would be poor quality.
Some of the branches are kept at a medium length as “mother branches.” These vines will continue to spread making new branches. These are also trimmed but not nearly as much. Very few branches become mother branches.
|The vine before pruning|
|The vine after pruning|
As I trimmed the branches, I thought of all the pruning I have had to do in my life over the past year. As with the vines in Kostenets, I had to cut off many branches completely. There were many things in my life and ministry that were taking unnecessary energy and keeping me from being as fruitful as I could be. I had to make some tough decisions to cut off certain branches. It is always sad to abandon something into which we have invested significant time and energy, but sometimes it is for the best.
Other things were kept, but cut back significantly. In doing so, they actually become more fruitful. Others step in to pick up what I left behind and projects, ministries, and lives become more than they would otherwise be had I continued to fully invest in them.
Then there are the branches I invest in deeply. These “mother branches” are where I will invest most of my energy this year.
Deciding which “branches” to cut has become something I do on a regular basis. Sometimes deciding to cut a branch is easy. Just as dry unfruitful withered branches are the first to be cut off the vine, there are obvious things in my life that are no longer worth investing time and energy into. They are just draining and need to go.
However others branches make for tougher decisions. Perhaps a branch looks withered but just needs more time to bear fruit. Perhaps a branch could be fruitful if only given one more season. Perhaps cutting a branch will prove to be an unpopular decision. Perhaps leaving a branch will be seen as foolish. Keeping lots of branches can give the illusion of a healthy plant, but lots of leaves does not mean lots of fruit.
Yet they are my branches to cut, and they must be cut. I only have so much time and energy, and if I spread myself too thin I will accomplish nothing. Ultimately, the decision as to what to prune and what to keep in my life is up to me. I pray that I will chose wisely. Yet even if I make mistakes as I prune, the good news is that the vine is very forgiving and things grow back.
Seasons of pruning are necessary. They can be difficult, but they are good.
I thank God for giving me the time to prune, and pray for wisdom as I do so.