Why I Got an Olive Branch Tattoo

If you like tattoo stories, you've come to the right place! I'm a big fan of sharing the meaning behind the art I've permanently inked into my skin, and think tattoos should always be deeply significant. If you haven't read the stories of my other tattoos, you can find the story of them here and here (I didn't write a post for the arrow on my foot).

So, for #4. An olive branch. Goodness, does this one resonate deeply in me.

The significance:

If you want a total history of olive trees/branches, this article is EXCELLENT.

This is the angle I see when I look down at it! My elbow is at the very bottom of the photo.

This is the angle I see when I look down at it! My elbow is at the very bottom of the photo.

Some of the key things for me:

  • Olive trees are mentioned many times in Scripture, often as a metaphor for God's relationship with his people. (In Hosea 14, there's a passage about returning to the LORD in repentance, and it says "His splendor will be like an olive tree... they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine... your fruitfulness comes from me.")
  • Olive trees have extensive root systems, which means that they often stand alone. Love that even though these trees are solitary, they are deeply rooted and stand strong. The significance! Ah!
  • These trees thrive even in rocky soil. If that isn't a metaphor for life...
  • These trees really their peak much later in life, and often continue to produce fruit for hundreds of years. Love the reminder that maturity takes time, but that I can continue to bear fruit all the days of my life.
  • These trees, even when trimmed or even after they die and are cut back, spring forth new shoots. Death isn't the end for them, just like it isn't for me in Christ.
  • Even when the fruit of these trees are pressed, they create something that was often referred to as "beaten oil" and it was of the highest quality. Beautiful, richly flavored things come even after being hard pressed...
  • The oil from olive trees is often used to anoint or give sacrifice -- it's a symbol of blessing, honor, and atonement.
  • Jesus spent the last hours before his arrest in an olive grove, and I've heard that since the new growth comes out of the old stumps, there have only been a few trees over the years in that very same spot since the very tree Jesus sat under. Like four trees ago (or some crazy low number like that), Jesus was right there under its branches. How incredible is that?
  • Olive oil in the past was used to light household lamps -- the very thing that came once the fruit was picked and crushed became the thing that gave new light... I can't get over how significant this all is.

The numbers:

There are two olives on one side of my tattoo, and one on the other. This is in reference to Revelation 21, a chapter that talks about the new heaven and new earth. It's a beautiful picture of restoration and renewal, one that changes everything. When the Lord returns, there will be no more death, no more brokenness, no more pain or sadness. He will make everything, every hurt and damaged thing, brand new. Whole. Pure. Complete. What a glorious truth.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
— Revelation 21:1-5

There are five leaves on one side and three on the other -- my birthday is May 3, so 5/3 has always been a day of celebration for me. But also, verses 3 and 5 in Revelation 21 are the ones that I cling to: Verse 3 tells us "God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them." -- He is Immanuel, God with us, He is never far from us, He is always dwelling through the Spirit in us, and we are never apart from Him. Verse 5 tells us “'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” -- This is a promise we can build our lives on. This is truth. This is the Gospel, the good news, come to completion through Christ, ushering us as believers into a glorious eternity with God forever. Hallelujah, these words are trustworthy and true.

There is one branch -- like there is one true Vine. Jesus says in John 15:5: "'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'" I want to daily remember to abide only in Him, for it is only through His strength and love that I will bear fruit in my own life.

Can't thank Ashly at River City Tattoo enough for her talent -- she's done my last three tattoos and I can't imagine every getting one from anyone else now! If you're looking for a tattoo artist in RVA, she's your girl.