This is the season for renewal. It is a time when old, spent foliage is sloughed off to make way for new buds to form. It is a time for pruning while the sap still lies deep enough in the plant that the useless branches and parasitic suckers can be lopped off without damage to the healthy central core.
Late last fall I cut back severely the grapevines that grow on the grape arbor we built several years ago over the millstone walk leading to our backdoor. (Our kids and grandkids have always loved eating their way in grapes into our kitchen.) We had put off the pruning too long because we love the cozy vine-shelter over the walk in the hot summer, and we have paid for that misplaced kindness in grape harvest. Last August just a few anemic orbs were there to be tasted. It was time. Past time.
This winter we have felt bare and exposed as we went into the house. The seasoned old grapevine trunk has shivered in the snow like swollen arthritic kneecaps and elbow joints exposed to the elements. But, come spring, life – insistent, vibrant – will burst from these old gnarled roots. Wild new sprouts will begin to wind themselves around the cables we’ve stretched between the timbers and make their way to the strong framework of wire overhead. By hot weather great clusters of purple and red fruit will dangle above our heads exuding that rich aroma of communion I remember from childhood’s sacred celebrations.
This time of year I’m thinking about other kinds of new growth and new sprouts and young vines that, full of glorious life and freedom, can wind their way across chasms, spanning empty cold spaces, bridging gaps with love and the sweet aroma of fellowship. I’m longing for the people of God to find in a fresh new way to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and, being “rooted and grounded in love,” be “able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.”
I’m longing in my own heart to experience a new burst of courage to leave my comfort zones to “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17b-19 The Message) I want to dare to prune away old attitudes and preconceived ideas knowing that in the warm days ahead the fruit of bridge-building grace and mercy and love will be so plentiful and sweet it will drip down our arms for the sheer joy of it!