It takes approximately 20 olives to make just one tablespoon of pressed olive oil. Additionally, it takes more than 1,300 olives to produce a single 32-ounce bottle of oil.
Making quality oil is a difficult process. It starts with expert care and growth of the olive trees. Once the olives are ripe, they must be harvested and picked individually by hand. Next the olives must be properly cleaned of all leaves and dirt. Then the olives must be crushed and grinded into a paste. This pulp is slowly mixed until it separates into oil, water, and pomace. The oil is then extracted and goes through a filtration process to ensure it is as pure as possible. After this extensive process, then the oil is finally bottled and delivered to you.
Now, you're probably wondering, what does all of this have to do with me? Quite a lot actually. But, first, I must start at the beginning.
I've endured a few very difficult months. From the loss of my best friend to an emergency surgery to repair my eight-year-old's broken arm, to a massive construction project happening in my basement, relationship struggles, and financial strains. I will be the first to admit that I've been going through a bit of a hard season in my life right now.
I'm no stranger to these seasons. In fact, I've written about them many times before. But, last week I felt like I was at my wits end. I was at a low point, feeling sorry for myself, and thinking, "God, what the heck is going on?"
I needed answers...
Ironically, I'm on the fourth week of my Yearlong Bible Study for Women. Opening my bible is the one thing that I've stayed steadfast and committed to during this hard season of my life. It has become an anchor for me to fall back on during tumultuous times.
I don't normally crack my bible open in the middle of the day. In fact, I prefer to get my reading done in the early morning hours before the house wakes up. I love to sit in the stillness of the dawn and be alone with God before everything else. But for some reason the other day, I knew that I needed to open my book during my lunch break.
I warmed up some soup and started reading the tedious task that is Exodus. I sat there scanning over the long list of formal instructions from God to Moses on how to build the tabernacle. My heart really wasn't into it. And, if I'm being honest, I was bored with all the excessive details, dimensions, and materials that God demanded of Moses.
However, I briefly paused when I got to the part about the anointing oil described in Exodus 30:
The Lord spoke to Moses: "Take for yourself the finest spices: 12 ½ pounds of liquid myrrh, half as much of fragrant cinnamon, 6 ¼ pounds of fragrant cane, 12 ½ pounds of cassia, and a gallon of olive oil. Prepare from these a holy anointing oil, a scented blend, the work of a perfumer; it will be holy anointing oil.
I've made my own versions of anointing oil many times. I've created daily practices around aromatic anchoring, a daily self-anointing ritual. And I have even shared with my readers some of my own favorite anointing oil blends and taught others how to anoint themselves and their homes.
It's a great passage. One that I'm fond of, of course. But I don't find this passage to be overly significant. I continued brushing over the details until I got to the end.
As I shut my bible, I opened my Study Guide to the fourth week. It began to talk about this anointing oil in more details and how everything in the tabernacle had to be "made holy" with this sacred oil. The guide went on to say:
Each ingredient chosen for the mixture had to be beaten, strained, or crushed. Of course, to obtain olive oil, you have to crush the olives -- the more olives you crush, the more oil is produced.
Tears began running down my face as I had an immediate epiphany. Out of all the words in the dictionary to describe my current state. It was right there. Staring me straight in the eye. I, like the olives, felt crushed.
My book went onto talk about how we have all been crushed in many ways. The day-to-day struggles and heartbreaking losses that we experience stretch us, devastate us, and put strain on us. Like the olive, we often have moments where we feel like we're being put through the grinder and turned over into some kind of unrecognizable goop.
I have often known that God is sifting me, separating the good from the bad, and filtering out the people, places, and things in my life that I no longer need. But knowing this still doesn't make the crushing any easier. My study guide went on to say that what is really happening during these times of crushing is that God is strategically anointing us for what is to come:
The crushing didn't feel good, but it was necessary to equip you and develop the anointing you needed to carry out your assignment on earth.
What is really happening to us when we're going through seasons of darkness, sadness, depression, pain, or grief? What is really happening to us when everything in our life seems like it is falling apart?
I was reminded so beautifully of this important lesson. We are, in many ways, like the olives right before they become sacred oil. We must go through difficult growth processes and endure all kinds of seasons -- both good and bad. We often must be cleansed and cleared of all that isn't in our highest, most Divine alignment. And then, from time-to-time, we get crushed. We get grounded, sifted, purified, and filtered so that all that remains is a completely new and altered version of ourselves. A newer version of us that is in closer alignment to God.
No matter how many times you've gone through this process, it doesn't seem to get any easier. Because no matter what kind of healing you have done, or the tools you have created for yourself, when you're in the midst of being crushed everything feels bleak and comfortless.
Although the crushing is uncomfortable, God uses it to develop the oil needed to set us apart so that when others experience our ministries or gifts, it will be evident that God's hand is upon us. Don't despise the crushing -- thank God for it!
Thank God for the Crushing
Spirit has told me about this process many times, especially when working with clients. I'll be sitting with a client and Spirit will tell me, very excitedly, "Oh! They're being sifted!" Like it's a magical, amazing experience that the person in front of me is enduring.
I remember the first time I heard them say this word to me. I asked them, "Sifted? What do you mean by sifted?"
Then Spirit would show me these visions of someone sifting wheat or flour. They'd explain to me that this sifting process is necessary to separate the good from the bad. When sifting wheat, the hard outer shell gets broken down so nothing, but the wheat, remains. It's a process of refinement that every person goes through. We often endure small (and sometimes big!) changes in our lives to remove the impurities of our lives, our minds, our hearts, and our emotions. In the end, the aim is always to come out the other side more perfected and evolved.
This post is for anyone reading today who may feel like they're being sifted or crushed right now. My hope is that it inspires a little bit of faith in you. Because if your life doesn't feel good right now, then remember that God is not finished with you yet.
Growth is rarely easy or comfortable. It requires changes in our lives. It asks us to evolve the way that we think, act, and respond. My advice to you today is to lean into the crush. Embrace the struggles and adversities. When you do this, you will realize that everything that happens for you is designed to bring you into closer alignment with God.