Sunday, December 4, 2016

Growing Pains (feat. Jekalyn Carr's "Greater Is Coming")

Gospel artist Jekalyn Carr's hit song "Greater is Coming" (check Jekalyn out here) opens with a commentary on olive oil. As the opening melody plays, Jekalyn says:

"An olive has to go through three stages for its oil to run: It has to go through the shaking, the beating, and the pressing. And just like the olive, some of you may have felt like you go through the shaking, the beating and the pressing. You've [gone] through all of that for your oil to flow. Now, your greater is coming."

This song has always been one of my favorites. The combination of Jekalyn's powerhouse vocals and the overarching message of anticipating greatness is appealing to both the ears and the heart, but understanding the significance of the shaking, the beating, and the pressing made me appreciate it even more.

I was curious about the olive metaphor. When I looked it up, I found direct connections between the olive harvesting process and life's growing pains. People, places, and things in our lives come and go as we grow. If we're really attached to those people, places, and things, growing can hurt as God takes us through the three stages that are necessary for our oil to run, constantly adding and taking away things in order to prepare us for our purpose. After these stages, the oil flows. The anointing is sealed by the oil, and we are able to walk in the fullness of our destiny.

In the field: The Shaking

"If it had not been for the shaking, / I never would've been ready for the making..." Have you ever noticed how most of the time, when we feel like life is good, & things are going according to our plans, unexpected things happen to us out-of-the-blue to change us? This is the shaking. Proverbs 19:21 reads, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" (NIV). God's plans always override our plans. What we think is a shake-up is God's way of re-centering us on His map for our lives.

According to Made How, "The olive tree boasts two prizes—the olive itself (called the table olive) and the precious oil pressed from the fruit's flesh. In fact, a third prize is the tree which has a twisted trunk full of character..."

You, the olive, are the prize. When seedlings, who are not as developed as you are, see your character—the height of your tree and the size of your anointing (20-30% of an olive's weight is oil)—they will try to graft themselves to your trunk. Some are there to grow into other trees. While you wait for your own oil to flow, speak life into them and help them along their journey, even if they are only attached to you for a season. Share Godly wisdom with them and pray that they will have the strength to go through the process, which is often long and arduous:

Olives are first seen on trees within eight years, but the trees must grow for 15-20 years before they produce worthwhile crops, which they will do until they are about 80 years old. Once established, the trees are enduring and will live for several hundred years. (Made How)

Encourage the seedlings who are destined to be trees, even if they are damaged. Made How says, "Damaged fruit can still be used by pressing it into oil." Even if your oil isn't flowing yet, the weight of your anointing is still visible. Use it. Love the damaged fruits with the love of Christ so that they, too, can be used for God's glory. Tell the seedlings that the reward will be greater than the sacrifice, but help them prepare for the cutting. Olive trees grow from cutting, too. At some point, every tree has to stand on its own. Olives come in a wide variety of colors, flavors and shapes, and every anointing is different. That is why, after the cutting, the tree should not compare itself to the tree next to it. According to Made How, "The key to the flavor, color, and texture of the olive is the moment of harvest." Your fruit may not ripen at the same time the next tree's does, but don't worry. It will ripen exactly when it's supposed to—in God's timing.

Toxic Attachments: The Beating

"If it had not been for the beating, / I would've never knew how anointed I would be..." Many seedlings will try to attach themselves to your anointing, but not all of them are good seedlings. While some genuinely want to grow into trees, others are there to taint your anointing, to drain the oil out of you before you even get a chance to use it. Instead of growing, they'll take what they can, and then fall off the tree.

Made How said it best, "Fallen fruit looks edible, but it isn't. All olives...require processing before they can be eaten." Fruits that are destined to fall will make you think they're trying to grow with you, but be not deceived: they don't care about your progress or your process. They are not interested in growing to be used by God; they are only interested in using you.
When fruits that need to fall are determined to hang onto your branches, the beating occurs in a process called machine harvesting:

Each machine has a crew of six to nine men to operate the machine, shepherd the falling olives into the nets, and strike the branches to knock down the stubborn few by hand. The vibrations of the machine shake down about 80% of the tree's burden, and knocking at the branches with staves yields another 10%. (Made How)

God is operating the machine of your life. The beating is necessary because a "stubborn few" people and habits are hard to shake. You may feel like life is beating you up, but God is doing it for your own good, allowing those burdens that are holding you back to fall away. When they fall off your tree, let them go. Don't try to reattach them. It might seem like you can't live without that person or thing right now, but holding on to them can keep you from your calling.

Refined vs. Unrefined Oil: The Pressing

"If it had not been for the pressing, / I wouldn't be able to walk into my destiny..." The pressing stage is usually the most difficult, because after this stage, the oil runs. Pressing seasons are often categorized by depression, pressure, stress, temptation etc. This season will often hurt the worst because you will most likely feel pressed out, like you're at the end of your rope...alone, no friends, patience stretched thin. It's easy to break during these periods, but the strong of faith will prevail, & the reward will be so worth it.

A word to the wise: Oil is a sealant. The anointing on your life is sealed and protected because you are walking in your purpose, but the sealant does not guarantee a life without stumbles. Pressing is an ongoing process. According to Kitchn, "Olive oil also falls into two distinct categories: refined and unrefined. While unrefined oils are pure and untreated, refined oil is treated to remove flaws from the oil, making it more sellable." Society tells us it's best to be "sellable" Christians, to appear perfect and flawless, an approach that is often viewed as holier-than-thou, a turn-off to people who don't know God or who have strayed away from Him. When it comes to winning souls for the Kingdom, being unrefined is better because it shows that God can take something imperfect and perfect it for His glory. Philippians 3:12-14 reads:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The highest quality oil is Extra-Virgin—unrefined. So, if you've gone through the pressing, and you still feel like there's work to be done, you're right. There is always room to grow as a Christian, always more to learn. And when the growing gets tough, the tough keep pressing.

*Image Credit: Kelli Foster

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