Can what is effortful be graceful, too?
I would have thought them opposites. But after gazing at this bumblebee, I wonder.
Because exertion and elegance were together on display. And I think they often stay together in the way of faith.
Exertion And Elegance
A Taming Grace is the working title of “that meekness book” that’s still writing me. And I know that these two—exertion and elegance—go together in meekness, even as they did in the delicate, determined precise dance of the bumblebee.
Meekness is a fruit of grace and a work of faith. It is the freeing power that helps us to choose what we did not choose, and go through trials we meet, not just somehow but victoriously. It takes great grace and immense effort to yield to the hard and to seek the good.
The meek are always looking for the good. Their exertion is elegant. It’s graceful.
Meek Like A Bee
But what again does meekness have to do with bumblebees?
Well, we need meekness when unfair stings, for one. And meekness helps us call to mind that God is good and that it is good to be near God. Meekness helps us stay in our own lane. It reminds us God will provide all our needs and that if we don’t have it, we don’t need it.
To extract takes work. It takes work when we feel mistreated, misunderstood and hurt to pull out some good. To be sorrowful and always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10) means we can extract some good.
For the record, I can only ever do that and work meekness out because God is working his sweet will in me (Philippians 2:12-13).
How busy this bumblebee! How methodical and purposeful his movement, how tenacious and clinging his grip. He works so hard. Six legs tense, clasping tight before he thrusts that tongue down deep into each purple petal. Extracting.
We too have to work to extract the good. Granted, unless we’re talking about about teeth we seldom use the word extract. It means to remove or take out, especially by effort or force.
How hard the bumblebee works to extract that sweet nectar. Now I wonder, Do I? Do I work as hard to pull out the good in the hard in my house?
Spiritual Bees Extract Good
If I’m a spiritual bee I do. Proverbs 11:27 says, The one who diligently seeks good finds favor. The good is there to be found.
In his 400 year-old classic, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry compared the meek to “spiritual bees.”
There is no provocation given us at any time but, if it be skillfully and graciously improved, good may be gotten by it. …[We may] gain some real benefit to our souls, by the injuries and offenses that are done to us: for even these are made to work together for good to them that love God. This is a holy and a happy way of…resisting evil. It is an ill weed indeed out of which the spiritual bee cannot extract something profitable…
So make like a bee. Exert to extract something good, something sweet. The effort itself might be a balm.
Kudos before I close to my dear friend Susanne for introducing me to bee balm. If it wasn’t for her Swiss, herbalist-botanist flair I wouldn’t have even glanced at that plant in our meadow with the bumblebee buzzing round.
But as we ambled through the garden last Saturday, she pointed, “These are good to eat.” Then Susanne plucked a pink blossom and we savored the spicy-sweet treat. But Susanne had another secret up her sleeve.
Then she unveiled a Mason jar full of elegant amber—a bee balm infused simple syrup. A splash at the bottom of the glass mixed with seltzer fizz for joy on a hot July afternoon.
Exertion, elegance, meekness, sweetness. Fresh joy. Good.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
We know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5:3b-5, The Message