I place the edible purplish orb into my mouth, and bite down. Anticipating the taste, my mouth puckers ever so slightly as the briny juice washes over my tongue. After a couple decisive chews separating the olive from its pit, I spit out the pit.
And I can’t help but think of Christ.
Olives are firm and bitter - totally opposite of most people's idea of comfort food. When I posted recently on FaceBook that I was eating an olive, I discovered people either really like them or totally convulse at the thought of swallowing one. There's not a lot of indifference about olives - that's one reason they remind me of Jesus.
Another reason has its basis in a trip I took about a year ago. I packed my suitcase along with a tote bag of books, notebooks and my Bible, and headed out of town on a personal retreat. A spiritual/writing retreat. It was several days of just me and God. I'd never done that before, and I won't soon forget it.
I didn't do much cooking that week. I ate a lot of snack bars, and resturant /coffee shop meals. God and I communed over lattes and biscotti, over roasted red pepper soup and sandwiches, and one night over olives and cheese.
I've never been an olive eater. But at the grocery store that day I spotted an olive bar and impulsively decided to take home one of each kind of olive. Black ones, green ones, French ones, Greek ones. Some I stomached okay (between bites of cheese) and some I didn’t like much at all. But I ate, and talked with my Savior as I did.
While olives themselves are bitter, slightly mealy, contain a hard pit and are not universally liked, once crushed and poured out they produce a universally prized oil. In biblical times this oil was used to anoint the heads of prophets, priests and kings - of which Christ is the ultimate.
In fact, Jesus is called “Christ” and “Messiah,” both of which mean “The Anointed One."
In biblical times olive oil was also a medicinal ingredient - reminding me that by His stripes I am healed. Those "stripes" came as my Savior was crushed and poured out. And that's what we remember at Lent. That's why we give something up or "suffer" in some way in identification with Christ.
But this Lenten season, rather than giving something up I'm adding something in: an olive a day. I stopped by the olive bar at my local Fresh Market, filled a container with olives, and I'll eat what tastes, to me, bittersweet. In remembrance of Him.
So for these reasons, at 4:45 AM this morning, I'm popping a black orb into my mouth, anticipating the earthy taste, puckering, chewing and spiting out the seed. And I'm giving thanks for the Son of God who was crushed and poured out so that you and I could be healed and anointed with His oil.
You like olives?
PS. This post is linked with Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays.