I am drawn to those things which are both amazing and disturbing. Don’t make fun of me, but this is how I feel about olive oil extraction. This can’t be the first time you’ve read that today. I was inIsrael this past spring with a group from Truett and while we were inNazareth, I saw an ancient olive press. It’s a three-step torture process for the defenseless olive: the olives are rolled underneath a heavy millstone then placed between weighted disks and finally, submerged in water. It's like Guantanamo for olives.
As I was listening to the presentation on the extraction of olive oil, all I could think was, “how big were these ancient olives?” The olives I know (besides my own girth-y toddler) are tiny. How on earth did these presses keep extracting oil from such a small fruit? Okay, the millstone makes sense, but after that, the olive has to be thinking, “How much more can you get out of me?”
This morning, I feel like a helpless olive (if an olive could be a rebellious girl with big hair). I wish God would just bring out my hidden sin or weak areas in one fell swoop. I wish these pockets of ugly would be supernaturally expunged from my body and soul. But unless I’m unique, I don’t think this is how it works. Instead, God presses us over and over and over—sometimes about the same sin or insecurity to which we’re clinging.
I guess it's because God doesn't just want us to change clothes-- he wants us clean. It's not enough to get most of our violent and destructive tendencies out because we were made for more than just mediocrity.
I’m finally starting to learn that just because I’ve been through a particular trial doesn’t mean I won’t face that same trial again. Just because I’ve had to be pressed in one area doesn’t mean I’ve earned my patience patch and I’ll never again be challenged in that area.
That’s because we’re not earning badges—we’re being transformed. We're not Boy Scouts learning slip knots; we're disciples learning Jesus. The goal is not to stop struggling with a certain sin or temptation once and for all—the goal is to learn dependence on the One who provides grace in the midst of sin and temptation. The goal is the same every time—God seeks to get out what’s killing me and keep what looks like Jesus.
I was amazed at how much oil could come out of each olive. The process required being crushed under a heavy burden, being stripped and finally drowned to get the last drops of the oil. The method is intense, but it’s because the oil is so valuable. Olive pressers don’t want to lose any of the oil the olive has to offer.
I woke up tonight feeling that I’m in the submerged stage of the press—I don’t know what good can come out of me, and I’m having a hard time breathing under the waters of my own guilt and emotion. But somehow, I know that there is something valuable still in me that needs to come out. Olive oil is the only oil that can be extracted through physical means alone. It’s never enough to casually roll it in your hands. If you want to see the real value of the olive, you’ve got to almost kill it.
There is comfort knowing God is separating the Jesus in me from the self-absorption. I’m not going to lie—I wish it didn’t hurt so much. But, I’ve learned that God doesn’t press what doesn’t need pressing. So the only thing to do is hold my breath and trust that the Presser knows what he’s doing, even if it almost kills me.