“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
I considered titling this post “temporal limits embraced,” but figured God would rather see me rest in the grace of His love than sit in the mire of unmet expectations. After all, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,” even if only in two month increments of written inspiration (Romans 8:28 NASB). Yet two months between postings is better than three, right? I think so, and I’m oh so happy to have time to reflect on the past several months. But let’s be honest, folks, it’s not too likely that my posting frequency will be increasing markedly any time soon. Would I like it to write more? For sure, however, college takes copious amounts of time, and it is made stupendously more difficult by the prospect of maintaining a moderately decent GPA. Anyways, on to some spiritual substance.
The past few weeks of my life have been full of ups and downs. I got a few great days of rest and relaxation away from campus one weekend, yet most of my time has been punctuated by periods of physical pain, spiritually induced fear, and mental fatigue capable of leaving me in a lifeless stupor. Looking at my life, though, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I live in a great country, have a great family, and my life hasn’t been particularly challenging, especially when judged by the standard of, say, the poor of a third world nation. And if you’re reading this, the odds are high that you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, at least when you stop and look at matters objectively. While the wall your standing in front of may seem insurmountable right now, your faith in the Father can herald you over the top with ease, “for everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world…” (1 John 5:4 ESV). Later in life you’ll look back at a given trial and laugh. Why? Because you realize in hindsight just how inconsequential the “insurmountable wall” was in the scheme of eternity. This is something that’s hit home for me in the past days.
You may know that I generally seek out a mountain wilderness fraught with soothing natural sounds and smells to spend time with God. Neither mountain nor wilderness are good descriptors of the environs surrounding UC Davis, where I now find myself. Better words would be flat, agricultural land with smells ranging from acrid synthetic fertilizers to pleasantly odiferous blooming almond and walnut orchards. But as it turns out, flowering orchards aren’t always as inviting as visual inspection would foretell.
In lieu of an ability to enjoy mountainous hikes I cycle extensively, both for the health benefits and the chance for spiritually enlightening conversation with God. I must admit that rural farm roads are great for biking… most of the time. In spring, however, I’ve learned that the bee’s come out in great numbers. I love bees, always have and always will, but recent experience has given me a healthier respect for their defense mechanisms—in other words, their stingers. In my view, God loves bees. The Promised Land of Israel was often called “the land flowing with milk and honey,” which clearly implies that God highly values these little powerhouses (see Exodus 33:3). Why, then, would He have given them something capable of inflicting pain? Out of love. All creatures need a defense mechanism and God gave bees stingers as part of His brilliant plan for global ecology. From my perspective, bees stinging humans is just a demonstration of how Satan commandeers something as sweet as honey and turns it into a menacing object of fear, an object of fear that has unfortunately infiltrated my own psyche.
By now you can guess that I’ve recently been stung by a bee. There I am cycling along and wham, a bee flies in my mouth. I thankfully wasn’t stung on the tongue, my lip, though, wasn’t so fortunate. Past experience led me to believe that I’d have a spattering of venom-induced pain for a few hours and then be done with it. But this time was different. My lower lip swelled to several times its normal size and remained that way for several days. After this ordeal I paid more attention to where and when bees would present themselves in good number for a few days, especially while cycling, and then life seemed to return to normal.
Am I just complaining about a topically insubstantial occurrence? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Just last week I was stung again while cycling, this time just above my right eye. Was I expecting some swelling and discomfort? Definitely. Was I expecting what I got. No! I went to sleep the evening after the sting with minor swelling and woke up the following morning unable to see out of my right eye. The area surrounding my eye had swollen to a size somewhere shy of a baseball, but a bit more substantial than a tennis ball. And the swelling wasn’t getting any better, in fact, it was beginning to spread throughout the rest of my face and I began having trouble breathing. Needless to say it didn’t take long to seek medical care, which resulted in an injection to reduce the swelling and the likely prospect that I’m developing a bee allergy.
Though such an allergy is an inconvenience and I don’t want to minimize its consequence—I myself have developed a fear of bees that isn’t of heavenly origin and have had to pray for relief—I do want to stress that in the western world such an allergy is indeed just an inconvenience. I can’t say sitting through college classes with one usable eye and a comically swollen face is fun, but I survived and recovered fully after a few days. If you get stung by a bee in the United States and demonstrate an allergic reaction it is incredibly unlikely that you’ll die. In most cases you’ll already know that you have an allergy, quickly employ an EpiPen®, and receive follow-up care at a hospital. The same cannot be said of less fortunate nations. While I don’t know the instance of sting allergies in other areas, I can say without question that an allergic reaction in a third world nation would prove much more dire. To me, this ordeal with bees has simply proven a great reminder of how blessed so many of us truly are.
In summation, I realize that there really wasn’t much “spiritual substance” to this post. The main reason I settled on discussing bees was because the Lord kept implanting the phrase “bee His” in my mind. I suppose this is evidence that puns are worth something to God too! But seriously, we are His. Each and every one of us. Whether we’ve been blessed with a life of abundance in a nation marked by safety and good times or have found ourselves among the poorest of the poor, God wants us to know that we belong to Him and are welcomed into the depths of His love. I want to encourage you to remember who you belong to on the most fundamental level, regardless of your present trials or pursuits. I want to encourage you to let others know that they can also find belonging in the house of God, a house full of brothers and sisters not distinguished by economic means or racial priorities, but distinguished by a deep and fervently shared love. In a sentence, I want to encourage you to bee His.