Eat the green olives

Father David Epps's picture

When I was a sophomore in high school, I dated a young lady named Pam. She and I were attending a youth party sponsored by my Methodist church and, at some time during the evening, I wandered over to the piano and began playing, “Louie, Louie,” the only song then, or now, that I could play.

Pam was standing behind me and slipped, what I thought to be a grape, into my mouth. As I bit down on the object, I blanched, gagged, and spat out what turned out to be a green olive stuffed with pimento.

It was my first encounter with either green olives or pimentos. Pam and I ceased dating not long after that. She broke up with me, but it was all for the best After all, how can you build a relationship with someone who gives you olives when you are expecting grapes?

Never again would I eat olives or pimentos. The unexpected and undesired taste of those two substances, which were decidedly un-grapelike, soured me on ever having an interest again. I don’t have green olives on pizza and I don’t eat pimento cheese sandwiches.

It’s funny — and sometimes tragic — how bad experiences keep us from venturing out and taking risks. I sat next to a man on an airplane recently who shared that he hadn’t been back to church since his grandfather’s funeral almost two decades ago. It seems that a church lady said to him that it was such a shame that “a man as kind and good as your grandfather is burning in Hell.”

He never forgot the experience and, for him, church people have left a bad and bitter taste in his mouth that lingers to this day.

I spoke with a beautiful young wife several years ago whose husband left her and her small daughter for another woman. Trying to be caring and supportive, I said, “Some day you will meet a man who will treat you right and will love you and your little girl.”

She looked at me in obvious scorn and said, “No offense, pastor, but I need another man in my life like I need a hole in my head. As far as I’m concerned, all men are pigs!”

Realizing that I had made a serious mistake, and that the conversation had grown suddenly tense, I tried to lighten the moment by saying, “Ouch! Well, that hurts.”

She then quickly replied, “Oh no, no, I didn’t mean you, Pastor Epps — I don’t think of you as a man.”

I decided it was best if I just kept silent.

The other week, my wife and I were in Florida and, for lunch, I ordered the pan-seared grouper. It came smothered with a relish that included ... green olives stuffed with pimentos.

As I have done since 1965, I picked the vile stuff out and laid it aside. Over halfway through the meal it hit me — why not try it? After all, the person who prepared it was a trained chef at this not-very-cheap restaurant and, presumably, his goal is not to gag the patrons.

So, with about a third of the grouper left, I returned the stuffed olives to the mixture and gave it a go, and — it was delicious. It wasn’t grapes, but it was delicious.

The young wife I mentioned a moment ago did, indeed, encounter a man that loved her and her daughter and, as far as I know, they are still married and happy today. I tried to plant some good seeds in the life of my fellow traveler and I pray that, someday, he will return to church and realize that not all Christians are stupid and insensitive.

One bad taste doesn’t necessarily have to last a lifetime. All of us have unpleasant experiences. Here’s the lesson learned: “Eat the olives anyway.” What once was a bitter experience may be replaced by something wonderful and unexpected. You won’t know until you take a chance.

[David Epps is the pastor of The Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Church in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]

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Submitted by Hey on Tue, 10/06/2009 - 2:30pm.

That is so true. I learned a long time ago to "never say 'never'".

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