Having grown up an Iowa farm girl it is no wonder I feel the rhythm of life in seasons. As a young girl the smells of iris blooms, fresh-cut alfalfa, corn husk dust, or freshly-fallen snow oriented me to spring, summer, fall, and winter. These days, a teacher and mom in Silicon Valley, seasons shift less around my senses and more around my schedule. Work life, kids’ activities, and garden watering (or not) mark life’s seasons.
Recently my students and I ventured into Matthew’s gospel. For some it was like going through Grandma’s photo album as stories from the New Testament connected with prophecies in the Old. Others found the task overwhelming, unfamiliar with the stories that make association possible. Time in Matthew 4:1-11 led a particular student to connect Jesus’ forty days of fasting before Satan’s temptations to Israel’s forty years in the desert. Another student processed Jesus’ quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 (found in Matthew 4:4) and discovered truth about God and relationship with Him.
I had opened class with this picture of an olive press from Bet-Guvrin - Maresha as a visual of the Old and New Testament connections. As the lesson unfolded the words coming out of my mouth sounded something like: “Olive presses were located in caves due to their consistent temperature. Each pressing had a purpose, and all parts of the olives were used in some way.” The Hebrew word Gethsemane translates to oil press. Under the pressure of the olive press ripe olives harvest varying levels of purity. The purest oil was harvested from the first pressing. A few pressings later the remaining pulp was placed in oil lamps to be burned as fuel. Together we remembered Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, “Father, take this cup from me.”
Unbeknownst to my students as we continued class together, God was singing (in a way that only God can sing) over me. The Spirit reminded me of God’s refining, redemptive work. What rich symbolism emerged as I considered Jesus sweating drops of blood on Gethsemane,
surrendering his will, surrounded by olive trees and presses. These God-shaped melodies offered truth, grace, and peace as my heart sang back, “This season is hard, God. I’m desperate for your leading and deliverance. What are your purposes for me in this season?” God’s reply melted my fears and insecurities: “I have had you in an olive press season for some time. Each pressing has a purpose! And nothing is wasted in the process. I have used and will use the fruit for my kingdom. You will not know all of my purposes, but you can trust me, and you can offer this olive press season to me with open hands.”