I have been preserving olives. A friend invited us to share in the harvest of a large olive tree laden with fruit.
The olive tree dates back to the time of Solomon. It is the oldest cultivated tree in existence and it is thought that some individual olive trees may have a lifespan of 2000 years.
It is not possible to pick the fruit from the tree and enjoy it as the olives are totally inedible. They have to be soaked and salted and preserved in oil to remove their bitterness.
Bitterness is one of the negative emotions that can often become embedded in someone who has lost a friend or loved one to suicide. Unlike anger which looks for an outlet, bitterness smoulders below the surface. You may come across it in a cold, impersonal greeting or an accusatory remark.
Bitterness left unchecked can impact on our physical health. It is like a corrosive ulcer robbing us of our joy and denying us those positive feelings of contentment and happiness.
Bestselling author and Christian leader Max Lucado says, “Bitterness is its own prison.” The resentment we may feel towards others or even God begins to define who we are. We blame others for our circumstances, our pain, and our loss.
The fruit of the olive tree only becomes palatable after being soaked in brine for up to six weeks. It is a process that requires patience and persistence. Removing bitterness from our lives requires a similar commitment. It asks that we allow ourselves to be immersed in God’s love.
When we lived in New Zealand we visited the hot springs at Morere. Soaking in the hot pools is therapeutic. The warmth permeates your whole being. You feel transformed. This is what God’s love can do for us.
American clergymen, Harry Emerson Fosdick, whose life spanned the two World Wars and the Great Depression, wrote
“Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyses life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it. Bitterness sickens life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.”