mike lives in spokane washington and is a pastor at a spirit community called branches

Olives, Tasting, and Learning to See

Olives, Tasting, and Learning to See

As a kid I hated olives.

I had a hard time understanding how anyone could possibly like those little black orbs from hell. They came on salads, alcoholic drinks at fancy restaurants came with them, uncles plopped them in their mouthes nonchalantly.

I didn’t get it.

How could a food so gross be such a fixture to the wider context of cuisine?

There’s a passage in the psalms that says “taste and see that I am lord.” It’s in chapter 34.

I always found this passage interesting. A speaker I respect a lot has a video on it. In it, he talked about how tasting is us connecting all of our senses in order to gain access to something.

I agree with that interpretation, but I also think there’s even more going on here than just that.

Four out of our five senses are relatively passive in nature.

We touch without even thinking about it.

We see things naturally, they just happen in front of us.

I’m in a coffee shop right now and, although I’m not listening to conversations, I am passively hearing them.

And I’m also smelling the espresso being made.

But taste? That’s different. It requires our active participation.

To taste something is risky.

Because tasting something can be foul and disgusting.

It can make us want to heave and gag and vomit.

Have you heard all the brutal stuff that God is associated with in our culture? How, in a lot of peoples minds, “He” is judgmental and

obsessed with damnation and

somewhere else and

demeaning of women and

a hater of gays and

misguided and

loads upon loads of other things.

God, to a lot of people, tastes terrible.

And rightfully so.

But have you ever eaten with someone and they are ranting about how you have to try their food and at first glance whatever it is looks disgusting and you don’t want to try it but they keep telling you to try it and then you try it and…

It’s amazing.

This psalmist is onto something.

There is something else that we can taste when it comes to God. Something personal. An understanding that tastes radically different than what was initially handed to us.

This year, after a good ten years of not going anywhere near olives, I tried them again.

They were sprinkled on a salad, and, at first, I didn’t know they were there. But I noticed this unique and foreign taste and looked down and saw them.

And much to my surprise… I took another bite of the salad. And another and another and another.

I suddenly liked olives.

What we initially view as gross and a ruiner of good things... 

What is initially associated with damnation and judgement and hate and backwards…

Is desperately longing to be redefined.

But we first need to encounter that new reality. And all that takes is a simple taste.

And the mysterious thing is sometimes that taste happens when we don't even expect it to.

We don't even seek it out, it instead comes to us.

God to me, for awhile at least, was something I couldn’t stand. “He” was associated with cheesy youth pastors, straightforward answers to questions that were the furthest thing from straightforward. “He” was judgmental, mean, and not inclusive.

But then, one night, as I drove home from a friends wedding alone... 

Overwhelmed with the feeling of being by myself in the world... 

Listening to the Night Beds song Lost Springs... 

More vulnerable then ever…

I tasted something.

A new something.

Something that said


Yes you.

I see you.

I feel you.

I know you.

I’m in you.

I’m outside of you.

I’m here.

I’m close.

I’m distant.

I’m love.

I’m pain.

I’m hope.

I’m despair. 

I am whatever/wherever I happen to be and I want you to participate in all this mystery with me.

God, all of a sudden, wasn’t an institutionalized existence. God was now an ever present/pulsating/pleading insistence.

It’s not that God was suddenly definable for the first time, rather, God was now housed inside of every definition. 

God, this spiritual breath of life, was making everything much more beautiful than ever before because now I had the eyes to see what/who/how/why/where God was... 

A mystery.

I had tasted something I once found foul.

And now I truly saw.

When something is forced on you like olives were to me on shared salads at dinner as a kid, they aren't nearly as good as when you naturally happen upon them.

When preconceived notions of God are given to you, it leaves you no room to actually taste this divine reality for yourself.

God, to quote that same theologian who first pointed the passage in Psalms out to me, is inviting you to taste.

To flip your perception.

And to be overflowing with the sheer joy that comes from recognizing that something that was once fowl can actually, when seen in a new light, be wonderfully tasty.

Wonderfully amazing.

And, perhaps most importantly... 

Wonderfully mysterious.

I decided after I had this new discovery of taste that I would video tape all the moments when I encountered this new and beautiful mystery and overdub it to that Night Beds song that helped put words to this new reality for me on the night of the wedding I was driving home from. 

Every moment I knew there was something more going on around me, whether through the people I love, the beautiful new places I was seeing, the ordinary places I had grown accustomed to that were taking on new definitions, I'd capture on video to create a reminder that portrayed my own personal realization of this active divine mystery. Every moment where I happened upon this divine presence that came over me like the wind in unexpected ways, I'd live in and then capture.

Here it is... I hope it speaks to you. But more than anything else, I hope it inspires you to do something similar. To reencounter this beautiful world we've been so fortunate to inhabit. To not see God as a gross and foul olive forced on you, but to simply happen upon God unexpectedly in order for a new reality so mysterious and undefinable to wash over you and shape your life.

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