Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Like Isaiah (5:1-7, specifically), I’ve been busy planting a vineyard lately; I’ve been spending the last few days down in Willcox planting some Corvina. While planting, it struck me that not only is pruning a vineyard a wonderful metaphor for certain aspects of an Orthodox Christian life, (see http://orthogents.com/2014/03/18/on-pruning/), but the act of planting is a wonderous metaphor, too. Like so many things, it is all about the foundations which you lay, which determine whether or not any particular aspect of your life is fruitful or not; including, I suppose, romance.
Not that I am much of an expert, but if you’re going to take a Orthodox Christian view of how courtship should be accomplished (whatever that is), you should start with a strong foundation. (This is also assuming that you’re interested in dating, period. If not, it’s still a useful thing to do in your own life regardless.) So it is with the vineyard I was planting this week. The first thing we did was remove all the trash; pieces of broken pvc pipes, old cans, lumber, nails, and randomly enough, a glove. In other words, move out the trash that’s cluttering up your own life. Things which distract you adversely which serve no purpose should be removed; namely unhealthy thoughts like “I’ll always be single,” or “I’ll never be good enough,” or “the person I date/marry must be exactly who I envision.” (NB: There’s a huge difference between “settling for ‘good enough'” and “being pleasantly suprised by how different this person is from expectations.” Don’t confuse the two) Once you have a vineyard that is mostly cleared enough from trash and detritus (not to be confused with the Discworld character), it’s time to move onto phase two.
Phase two is clearly marking out and deliniating where you want to put your vines. In other words: figure out exactly what your goals are and what you are seeking. Our vineyard is laid out in a 5 foot by five foot grid, as that’s what our trellis is going to be designed for, and what our irrigation is going to be designed for, and so on. For example, everything we do will have to be by hand, since there is no space for a tractor to move inbetween the vines. Weeding, fertilizing, and harvest will all be done with our manpower. Everything we do is going to be based on this grid. So it should be in your own life: your life as an Orthodox Chrstian is the grid from which everything else revolves. That process finished by putting little white flags in the ground at every spot a vine was going to go. (Flags are optional in your own life, at least when it comes to visual ones.)
Next up was fertilizing the ground under each flag, with a mix of manure and some phosphates and epsom salt. The equivelant in our own lives, of course is to fertilize your own life with prayer, fasting, and strong, healthy friendships. These provide the nutrients for both the vines, and of course, for us to grow more fully as awesome people. After that was done, we then dug the holes for the vines to go in. We cheated, and did not do this by hand; instead, we used an augur that was noisy and diesel powered, but it saved us time and most certainly (knowing the clay-rich nature of the local soil), our backs, and for that, I was decidedly thankful.
The idea here was to mix up the fertilizer with the native soil, providing a healthy mixture. When the soil was mixed, it was time to water, and so all of us followed along behind the belching machine at various points, pouring water into the holes which were dug. Too much water, though, and the roots would be smothered and the tiny little vine would die. So it is with dating: you have to provide a healthy space, mentally and spiritually, for a partner to even fit into our lives if it is so desired. If a partner is not desired, of course (or in addition to, whatever), you need to have room for God to act within your life.
Lastly, the vine is sunk deep into the mud and earth, for it’s roots to reach deep and drink while it’s teeny tiny little leaves worship the sun, just as we worship the Son. The point of all this work and preperation for a vineyard is for something like this:
to grow and become something like this:
In short: If we want a good partner, we have to start from the ground up, instead of trying to start from the top and work our way down.