Olive branch: something that is said or done to make peace or to show that you want peace : a symbol of peace.
It was three years ago this fall that I had the incredible experience of participating in an olive harvest in Palestine, alongside women who have been doing this for years.
We are clumsy; they are sure-footed as we climb high up into the branches of hundred year old trees.
We watch these strong, brave women show us how to strip the branches, causing the olives to fall onto tarps below where their children clean off stray leaves and twigs, collecting them into baskets.
We use sign language and simple words to ask questions.
They share their lunch with us – chicken cooked long and slow in a hole dug in the earth while the sound of olives plopping on tarps on the ground fills the morning air.
We dance with them and sing around the leftover scraps and chicken bones, resting under the shade of the olive trees.
They take us on a walk to show us land that has been taken from them over the years, shrinking their livelihood.
They are Muslims. We are Christians. They are Palestinians. We, Americans. They live oppressed. We enjoy freedom and abundance.
But we are all mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. All with hopes and dreams and fears for our families.
I’ve been thinking again lately about olives, olive trees, and olive branches of peace that are so desperately needed in a season of violence and mistrust.
Our olive harvest was an olive branch – an attempt to enter into the life and culture of women very different from ourselves in order to become better peace-makers.
And isn’t that what is necessary for peace everywhere?
- What if we show up in someone else’s environment instead of judging from afar?
- What if we walk alongside, questioning for better understanding?
- What if we lay aside the narratives we’ve been fed by the fearful, and truly listen to the story of the other?
As I think of Advent and our Prince of Peace, isn’t that what He did – truly enter into our lives so there would be no doubt that He understands our pain, our confusion, our anxiety, our wounds?
As believers, Christ lives in us. We have the opportunity to show up and enter in as He did, bringing the peace of Jesus into places of misunderstanding and mistrust.
Who is someone different from you? Someone of a different culture, religion, political party, sexual orientation? Who could you “pick olives with” and learn from today?
Psalm 52:8 And I’m an olive tree,
growing green in God’s house.
I trusted in the generous mercy
of God then and now.