O Wretched Olives

As a child, I once went out to a restaurant to mark some family event. We were far from wealthy, and such an occasion was a rarity. We would have dressed smartly and savoured the feeling. It was back in the days when dining establishments thought it acceptable to offer a ‘glass of orange juice’ as a starter. Knowing I could drink that anytime, I ordered some dish which was accompanied by a little bowl of grapes. I greedily picked several up and popped them in my mouth, crushing them with my teeth.

Despite my smart dress, airs of sophistication and general awe at being in so exclusive a place, I violently coughed out the offending grapes, a horrified look on my contorted face. They were not grapes, but olives, my amused relatives pointed out. To this day, I cannot abide their taste or appearance. Do I genuinely dislike them, or do I subconsciously recall my disgust at the posh restaurant 30 years ago?

Perhaps I offend the National Olive Council or the British Association of Olive Lovers. Like Marmite, you may consider these horrid little balls the very ambrosia of paradise. Well not according to my palate. Noxious they were, and noxious they remain. During lunch this week, I found some lurking on top of a pizza, threatening to ruin the whole. I would not even touch the foul pustules to remove them from the plate, eating instead around them.

Thomas Watson, the Puritan, wrote:

Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet and

The more bitterness we taste in sin, the more sweetness we shall taste in Christ

If only my loathing of sin were as great as my revulsion of olives! Now there’s an unusual, but worthy new year’s resolution.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25