At our new house, we inherited a very old (30-40 years old), very large, VERY overgrown grape vine.
After watching about a thousand (more or less) YouTube videos on pruning, I attacked the vine today. First, I started by taking out the very obvious dead growth, then I started cutting back on those vines with questionable vitality. I cut until I found live wood, then cut back per my instructional videos.
We ended up with a fairly scraggly vine. I would not be surprised if it does not bear fruit this year, though my mother tells me it is entirely possible that it will. But, hopefully, in a few years, we will have a good crop of grapes.
The entire time I was cutting, I was thinking about the vine illustrations in the New Testament. I know regular gardeners are well aware of this, but pruning is sometimes a fairly drastic action. A whole lot of our vine had to be cut away to reveal life. I find that so often in my spiritual life, I balk at taking the drastic steps that cut away death to reveal a place where new life can occur. But, obviously, that is what is necessary sometimes.
The other thing that occurred to me is that growth is not necessarily a gauge of health. Last summer and early fall, our grape vine was full of green, hard fruit. But the sun couldn't reach much of it, and a lot of the grapes did not develop well because so many vines were pulling energy away from the fruit. Further, the growth on some vines, covered up dead wood and, from a bit of a distance, made everything look quite lush. I thought about the many churches where numerical growth is held up as an indicator of health, while energy-sapping offshoots flourish, death/disease goes unchecked, and individuals are not challenged to grow fully.
I guess I have always known that being pruned is a rather painful process. But until I was cutting away the excess myself, I didn't understand just how much of myself really needs to be pruned.