5 Ways To Tend To Your Vineyard

determination disappointment embodied reading goals habits hebrew bible inspire isaiah 5 mindset motivation reflection song of songs viticulture Feb 22, 2022

Stinking Grapes and Unmet Expectations-Part 2

Last week we discussed Isaiah 5 and the Song of the Vineyard. We explored the vintner's response to unmet expectations. The response began with reflection, asking the questions that often accompany unmet expectations. However, a deeper reflection period is skipped over, which is met with unresolved anger and frustration and the decision to destroy the vineyard altogether (Isa 5:5-6). Instead of destroying our vineyards of unmet expectations, perhaps we could carefully tend to the roots that have so diligently been planted.

In the beginning of the Song of Songs, the Shulammite woman mentions that she is able to tend her family’s vineyard with care, but she needs to work on her own vineyard (Song 1:6). By the end of the book, she claims her vineyard for herself, “my vineyard, my very own, is for myself” (Song 8:12). She is not longer embarrassed by “her unkept vineyard.” Instead, she is portrayed confident and assured, completely in control of her property. She sheds the societal standards that made her feel inadequate in chapter 1, and finds her own path, and all that entails.  

How can we confidently tend to our vineyard this year? Follow the steps of the Shulammite woman, a vintner and master designer of her own vineyard.  

  1. Fortify your Plan; come up with a solid blueprint. Many vineyards in ancient Israel had a tower, or at least some walls for protection. Big dreams need to be chunked down into sizable steps. We can hope our dream will become a reality, but if we do not map out a detailed blueprint, the harvest will not correlate with our predictions. Part of the details should include a daily time slot dedicated to implementation of the long-term goal.    
  2. Prune your Expectations; your life circumstances are often in flux. Pruning is a learned skill that necessitates knowing how much of your harvest should be expected from year to year. There are months and sometimes even years where I am able to work diligently on long-term goals. Other times, I am bogged down by the demands of my health or my family. Perhaps reevaluate on a quarterly basis. Feel the disappointment, feel the pain, but pledge to remain diligent in your care.    
  3. Water your Dreams; this means putting in the time. Vineyards can take upwards of ten years to reap a drinkable harvest. Tending to a vineyard is a marathon approach, not a sprint. We can’t control the weather or the amount of rain that falls, but we can get up each day and give our best effort. If you can allot a set time each day dedicated to implementation of the long-term goal, you will see incremental progress.     
  4. Celebrate the Outcome; be it sweet wine or stinking grapes. Wine making was a delicate and often painstaking process, yet the vintage harvest was a time of celebration. The biblical text hints that this process was often in the hands of the women. For instance, the woman described in Psalm 31 is a vineyard owner. And the Shulammite woman in the Song of Songs was a caretaker of a vineyard (Song 1:6). Grapes quickly wither and fall to the ground if they are not harvested at the pristine moment. The Shulammite woman was there guarding the grapes and waiting for the perfect time to harvest. Knowing when to harvest requires knowledge and a certain skill set. Songs were sung, instruments were played, and weddings were often performed at this time. According to Judges 21:21, women danced in the vineyard at the time of the harvest. Even if the harvest was not as bountiful as the previous year, there were still celebrations. Perhaps, set quarterly or monthly markers to celebrate whatever progress has been made. Long-term goals can be difficult to measure in the day-to-day grind. Celebrating victories or recognizing setbacks along the way can be beneficial in maintaining morale and staying on course.     
  5. Reflect on the Harvest: The author contends at the end of the Song of the Vineyard (Isa 5:7b) that the fruit of the vines should have been justice and righteousness, not bloodshed and a war cry. How can our unmet expectations lead to a growth mindset (like the Shulammite woman), instead of a determination to destroy all that has been planted when things don’t go our way? Reflection is a critical component of the tending process. Reflection is often uncomfortable and requires honesty, but can also be quite motivating. Sometimes, there are just a few tweaks needed to alter the harvest, but without reflection, those steps are often overlooked. I always tell my college students that “the magic happens in the revision.” Don’t shy away from deep reflection; it may be just what is needed for a bountiful harvest in the future. 

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you have a desire that you have been considering exploring? A new hobby, a business venture, possibly an educational venture? 
  2. How can you make a blueprint today to investigate whether this is something you can feasibly explore? 
  3. What are the constraints that have hindered you from pursuing this dream? Are there ways around these constraints?
  4. Can you dedicate at least one hour each day to your long-term goal? How can you fiercely protect this time slot each day?
  5. Why does this specific goal speak to you? Reflect on why this is something you need to do. 

Tending to your vineyard is more than just dreaming about a different future. Tending to the vineyard requires making a detailed plan and tweaking that plan when needed. We can all hope for an abundant harvest, but it is the daily pruning and watering that ultimately produce grapes that can be made into wine. Even if those grapes are sour (stinking) at harvest, deep reflection and a few alterations can ultimately lead to a vintage wine worth celebrating. 

 Jennifer Metten Pantoja, author

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