But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints. Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV)
And I’m an olive tree, growing green in God’s house. I trusted in the generous mercy of God then and now. I thank you always that you went into action. And I’ll stay right here, your good name my hope, in company with your faithful friends. Psalm 52:8-9 (MSG)
I don’t live in olive tree country! As the snow flew past my window today, the subtlety of autumn has dissipated and we are left with the reality that winter is here. If there’s an olive tree to be found in my part of the world, it’s growing inside.
However, I had the luxury to visit Basilippo – a family run olive orchard in Spain. I became an olive oil snob right then and there. We were taken on a tour of the facility. How the olives are harvested. We toured the processing plant. We were taken through the shipping area. We were pulled into a room where little blue jars of oil were waiting for us. It was time to sample! Such care is taken to ensure that the quality of the oil remains. The oil is photo-sensitive so the opaque jars made sense. As the oil is exposed to light the flavours change and the oil is more prone to spoil. A tasting does not begin with the mouth but rather the nose. A good olive oil smells like green tomatoes or freshly mown grass. This oil did not disappoint. Then the taste – absolutely delicious. I now smell my olive oil every time I go to use it. No green tomato or freshly cut grass smell – out it goes!
My life is a lot like an olive oil.
It all starts with a tree. The right amount of sunlight is needed for the tree to grow. Certain fertilizers work, others only harm the tender plant. The perfect amount of water, the right kind of soil, will help the tree reach maturity. Without the right conditions, if it gets too cold, the tree will be lost. In order for me to grow, some favourable conditions are required. Time with my Lord, a must. Time spent with others, a top priority. My growth rate is impacted when I willfully neglect the opportunities to be refined.
In order to be harvested, the fruit must grow on the tree. It’s not a process that occurs overnight. The growing season is precious. Each moment of sunlight is eagerly anticipated. Each drop of rain is carefully guarded. The learning experiences in my life are like that. The best learns, the ones I can’t get out of my head – those are the ones that seem to take the longest to acquire. Each part of the lesson, forming a unit of understanding, is essential for the next one to be built on. Those lessons are sometimes sunlight – coming easily. Other times, they are acquired in the thunderstorms and downpours of circumstances – some of them are hard to learn.
The tarps are spread out under the tree to catch the fruit. I sometimes have a good memory. I file the lesson away. The moment arrives for its application and I pull it out again for the memory to help guide the process I am in.
The tractor shakes the trunk. But sometimes, the memory bank forgets. Or I file that particular item away so well that there is no way I can ever retrieve it. Then a little more force is required. Those lessons, the ones that take multiple applications and tests to apply, I don’t like very much. I’ve usually dug in my heels, demanding my way, claiming that I know better and understand more. My trunk getting rudely shaken has a way of reminding me that I have much to learn. I have not arrived in any way, shape or form.
But the end, result, the oil, that’s fantastic. It’s pungent, unmistakeable. The good stuff is not to be missed. When the lesson is applied by my God’s tender hand, when it sticks in my memory bank more than my craw, it’s good! It’s precious! It’s been worth the shaking and jolting, pressing and refining. It’s a beautiful thing.
I may not live in olive country, but I pray for a life that’s a high quality extra virgin olive oil. A life that’s spent in pursuit of the One who loves me best, delighting in His presence.