Friday, December 2, 2011

The Olive Tree - A True Parable


On Fridays, from now until the idea loses its appeal, I will be taking a walk down memory lane, remembering something from the past that either amuses, touches, or teaches me. This will be a regular series, but I won't force myself to stick to it rigidly. Still, most Friday mornings will be devoted to my reminiscing a bit for your (and my posterity's) reading pleasure. I do promise not to turn these offerings into parables every week! Sometimes, we will just laugh together, or even cry a little, and I hope you won't mind joining me.


When I was growing up in Santa Monica, California, our family home had a beautiful olive tree. My sister and I were fascinated by its fruit, which looked appealing but was hard and bitter to the taste. When we asked our mother how long it would take for the delicious morsels to be ready for eating, she smiled and explained to us that it wasn't a question of ripeness. Apparently, the olives needed to be cured before they would taste like our favorite treats on the relish tray at Thanksgiving. Needless to say, we were disappointed, but we were also resourceful.

By the next morning, we had cooked up the best plan two 4 and 6-year-old girls could formulate. Looking back, it seems to me that our minds were as fertile as the ground upon which the tree in question was planted. Of course, we had no idea that processing olives correctly involved either salt or lye, but we definitely got the other ingredient right...water. In our childish imaginations, we came up with the idea that changing those rock-hard olives into the soft ones we were yearning for would take a very special kind of water to get the job done, and the water we chose was toilet water. Only genuine water from the toilet would do the trick, and so we carefully stored a couple of child-sized handfuls of olives at the bottom of our toilet bowl overnight, hoping for good results. When morning came and there was little progress toward softening, we decided to wrap the olives in toilet paper and dry them in the sun. Still no notable results, so we upped the ante and added a final element to our curing. In fact, we spent a couple of hours dropping the olives from our second-story bedroom window, retrieving them, and then repeating the procedure, convinced that this surely would complete the magic formula for our success. When none of it worked, we were crestfallen. We couldn't understand how our brilliant processing plan had failed.

Our naive and ill-fated attempt to perfect these olives without the assistance of someone who understood what was needed reminds me of the equally naive and ill-fated attempts Heavenly Father's children often make to perfect themselves without His assistance and understanding. When our hearts are hard and bitter, His is the only process that will cure us, and His grace is the only agent that will soften sufficiently to make of us the good fruit He desires. His is the divine plan of salvation, and our only success is in following it.

"...I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

©2011 Susan Noyes Anderson

23 comments:

Nancy said...

Sue, this was post touched me in so many ways. The visual of two cute little sisters who minds were way ahead of their age...trying to perfect the ripening of olives....priceless. The "dropping" of the olives from the second story.....just like something a "normal" 5 or 7 year old would do. I remember watching and admiring you both as you made your way in the world. Now, seeing how your mind works in putting together the wonderful parable at the end...so inspiring and thought provoking. You are awesome!! Love you still.

Nancy said...

sorry about the typo.

Garden of Egan said...

That is an awesome post.
I've never seen an olive tree, so to have you decribe it and the process of wanting to have delicious treats was fun for me to read.

Thank you.

VK said...

I love little girls and my sister was as wonderful as yours. What fun memories we have of our childhood antics.

Tima said...

I think I'll like these Friday walks. Will get to know you better. With Ethan being 5, I'm picturing him trying these different methods!

LeAnn said...

Sue, this was a lovely memory. It was inspiring and I will look forward to reading your on going thoughts. Perhaps, you could do a small book of all of these memories sometime.
Blessings to you for a moment of warmth today.

Eva Gallant said...

I can just picture kids doing this!!

Nezzy said...

Oh sweetie, the wonderful story of the olives stood well by itself but throw in your great analogy and it just melted my heart.

So true, without God we are like those olives in toilet water. Hearts hard and covered with sinful germs!!!

Love it!!!

God bless ya and have a beautiful weekend sweetie!!! :o)

Grandma Honey said...

Just as you can look back at your self at 5 or 7....and realize you were just doing the best you could at the time...hopefully our Maker looks at all us down here with those same understanding eyes.

btw, were you the 5 or 7 year old?

Brian Miller said...

nice...great storytelling sue...smiles at the little ones dropping olive...i love olives...never had a tree though...

Momza said...

We experienced olive trees when we lived in AZ., I too, was disappointed to discover we'd not be eating the fruits thereof...seemed like a waste. Like the ornamental orange trees---what was the purpose, I used to wonder. Your parable reminds me that God is in control. Always.

anitamombanita said...

What a great story! I love this. And why am I not surprised that you would take such a creative approach to solving the "problem". It's so you!

Lisalulu said...

I love this memory/story/parable. I've missed you, because you always know what to say to make me stop and think.

Darlene said...

Oh Sue, when I actually found out what you and Nancy had been up to I just could't believe it. What incredible imaginations you both had. Because Nancy was the older, I wonder if it was her idea or did you cook it up? I honestly can't remember who's idea it was in the first place. Are you sure you guys were that old?

This should be a wonderfully interesting bunch of stories and I hope you can rack your brain and remember some that you haven't told your kids. That would be so fun for them read. I'm sure they have heard about the "olives" before. I think one thing that really developed both of your imaginations is that you only had each other to play with. There really were no other children in the neighborhood. We actually lived in West Hollywood, not Santa Monica, although Santa Monica Blvd was pretty close. I loved that house and so hated it when they took it all down and put up condominiums in that block just down the hill from Sunset Blvd. on La Cienega.

The analogy was a good one too!

Stef said...

Toilet water? Ha that is great. And I love this parable. Ain't it true. I look forward to reading your Fridays...okay, I look forward to reading your stuff all the time.

karen said...

What fun memories of times with your sister! I like this new idea you had.

PⒿ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥... said...

You are such a great story teller! And I'm not surprised you two were so creative in your endeavor! You are still that same creative, open minded soul.

And I love the entire last paragraph. This could be a sermon, Sue. For real. It felt like one to me. A great one. Thanks!

yaya said...

What a fun memory. My Sister and I cooked a few things up too, but I think yours beat out ours! I love the parable also...many days I feel like I'm curing in the toilet water! Thanks for sharing this memory and I'll look forward to others. I think this is a great idea to incorporate into my blog that I also use as a journal tool and putting memories in it would be a nice touch. Have a great weekend.

Dixie Mom said...

Such a sweet story. I think maybe you're right and that's why I feel like I'm being dropped from a two story window every day.
I will be moulded and shaped until I get ripe.

5thsister said...

Oh, I think I'm loving this walk down your memory lane! You were (and still) are quite innovative and crafty! So glad to have read this sweet story and your analogy. Keep on writing...this is a winner!

Joyful Noise said...

Did I know that you grew up in Santa Monica? My mother was born in Santa Monica and raised in WLA (38-56). I lived in WLA from 65-75 when I got married.

Caroline said...

I am smiling, Sue! Just picturing you and your sister trying to cure the olives in the toilet and dropping them out the window! Ha! So adorable.
Your analogy is spot-on--and a good reminder for me today. I need God's wisdom so much in my parenting. I don't know how I could do it otherwise!

p.s. Did you mother get a kick out of this or what? I bet she was tickled! :)

Farmer's Wyfe said...

What a fun post...and so thought-provoking, too. Funny the way kids think, but I guess in many ways, we don't grow out of it, do we? Thanks for this. Much.

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