Psalms from the Hive
by Jeannie Saum
Take a lesson from the bees
About how to be
A faithful friend.
It seems that they
Have read The Book
And found that love’s
Clover, Bee, and Revery
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people treat each other – both adults and children. It was prompted in part by my middle-school-aged granddaughter’s encounter with bullying and racial comments, from her “best friends”. We all went through times in childhood when each of us was subjected to teasing or name-calling or harrassment. But sometimes, this escalates to the stage of over-the-top bullying or predjudice or down-right meanness. It’s what causes some grown men and women to carry around the scars of childhood deep inside, into adulthood. It’s what causes young people to shoot up their classmates at school. And it’s something that sadly, many adults feel is not their problem, believing that kids should be left alone to work it out themselves. I’m all for kids problem solving and learning to navigate their social circles, but are times when we adults need to intervene, and set the example, be the guardrail, provide guidelines, say enough’s enough and put a stop to this kind of behavior in our children.
My daughter tried and failed to engage the other parents to get involved and put a stop to the hurtful behavior of their children – children who need guidance in learning what is acceptable and what is not, how to be a good friend and be kind to one another. Kids won’t learn what we don’t teach them. Without cooperation from the other adults, my daughter chose to close ranks with her family to protect her daughter, and she gave her daughter a wonderful lesson from The Bo0k, about what a true friend really is. The idea came from something she had seen on Facebook, and it was a powerful eye-opener for my granddaughter. It made her think about what kind of friend she wanted to have and what kind of friend she needed to be.
The task was to read 1 Continthians 13:4-8 and substitute a “friend’s” name ( or your own name) in place of the words “love” and “it”. For my granddaughter, the question her mom posited was: as we read through this passage, is this person treating you like these standards? If not, are they truly a friend?
This all got me thinking about a similar situation in my life- the abandonment of a long-held friendship by some adult friends of ours over differences of minor theology and some. Sometimes adult friends don’t act any better than children! I’ve been thinking about the truths and convictions Steve and I have learned from our faith and life experiences; tenets we’ve tried to live by and teach our children. I long at times, for others to show us the kind of faithful friendship we try to practice. And, it seems that I always end up relating my musings with what we see in our bees. I think we all could learn something about how we do life with each other from the bees and The Book .
As I read these verses in 1 Corinthians, I can see how all of us often fail to live up to the standards set down in these Bible verses, but it is something to strive for. And if someone in life is constantly behaving in the opposite way from these qualities, then one needs to question whether this is a healthy relationship and one where you can trust to let down your boundaries and open your heart, or not. When compared to these standards, my granddaughter realized that maybe these girls were not worthy of trusting with her heart and her friendship. Not to say that she was to treat them badly, or refuse to forgive if amends were offered, but to just keep a distance and move on, seeking more trustworthy and faithful friendships. And it also gave her guidelines for the kind of friend we want her to be, and the kind of friend we adults in her life strive to be.
The bees have it down. I think their little colonies could be a model of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. How’s this?
First of all, there is only one God – er, Queen – and the whole hive is all about her. She is the top bee, the creator of life, all other bees bow before her. The reason for their life is to serve the queen. They can’t all be queen – there is only one queen. She is in charge and sets the tone for the whole hive. She works hard at what she does, serving the hive – giving life and sustainability -and the other bees, in turn, serve her.
Bees are patient and kind. The nurse bees take care of the eggs, larvae and pupa for 20 days. Worker bees don’t brag or try to act like a queen (usually). They just do their jobs, the first ones being to clean up the cells and take out the trash, and keeping the brood warm. No big flashy job to brag about!
Bees don’t dishonor each other or just think of themselves, rather they live a life of service to the colony – tending to young, grooming each other, building comb, carrying food, and even caring for the dead. They work together, cooperate, to do their tasks and they take care of each other.
When a bee finds a good source of pollen or nectar, she doesn’t keep it all to herself. She comes back and does a joyful dance to communicate to the others, where the good stuff is, so that all may partake!
They take whatever comes and don’t give up. When humans or animals come into their hive and take their honey or pollen, they just keep making more. If comb gets damaged, they fix it. They keep building comb, and foraging for nectar and pollen, and bringing it back to the hive.
They don’t go looking to do evil. They really don’t want to sting you and they won’t bother you unless you bother them, or they get trapped. They just want to go around doing their gathering and pollinating.
Bees protect and defend each other. They stand their ground to defend their hive against unwanted guests by guarding the entrance and checking out the smell of any creature trying to get in. If it’s not a friend, they bar the door! And if one bee gets killed, or one has to sting to defend, they send out attack pheromones to call all the others bees in to defend. And the bees practice kind of a tough love – when the drones are not longer needed, they boot them out the door.
Those little bees hope and persevere – They go out with hope every day, searching for food and water. They spend months flying back and forth to the hive, bringing in loads of pollen and nectar. They spend days and weeks fanning their little wings to evaporate the moisture out of the nectar to turn it into honey.
They are loyal no matter what the cost. The attendant bees keep a protective circle around the queen, tending to her, feeding her, grooming her. And in the winter, they all cluster around the queen and flap their tiny wings a million times a minute, creating heat to keep their queen warm. And sometimes they do this until they die, sacrificing to try to keep their queen alive. Their whole focus is to keep their colony alive and enduring, and they will do anything and everything it takes.
I think we (adults and children) could all take a lesson in application of 1 Corinthians 13 from the bees! Can we be patient with our friends, understanding that sometimes they will have bad days, or weeks; that sometimes they will be difficult to deal with and might need an extra measure of grace (undeserved gifts) or mercy ( not getting the punishment they deserve)?
Can we be faithful friends that don’t envy what each other have, or become so proud about what we have, or how upright and “holy” we are that we can not longer be friends with someone who makes a mistake, or has a different philosophy or is going through a hard time? Can we be the kind of friend that doesn’t always have to get our way? Can we compromise or take turns “being happy”? Remember, we can’t all be the queen!
Can we be the kind of friend to others who doesn’t have to gossip about them or put them down to make ourself feel more important.? Can we be even-tempered and tolerant of each others differences, choosing to overlook little idiosyncrasies and only choosing the most important “hills to die on”? Can we forgive and forget when our human selves e hurt or offend each other?
Can we be the kind of friend that does not stir up drama and can speak truth in love to kindly shut down ugliness and drama when it comes from another? Can we be honest with each other, and when absolutely necessary, practice tough love? Can we wish the best for each other and defend each other against bullies and gossip and hurt?
Can we be the faithful friend that will help and protect someone, even in the hard times, instead of cut and run at the first sign of difficulty? Can we be the kind of person that someone else can trust to stand by them, keep confidences, be encouraging, and persevere even during the difficult times in the relationship?
Fair-weather friends are not what we need. Not as children or as adults. The bees get it – they don’t quit. They’ll do whatever it takes for the good of the colony. I believe we are called to succeed and not fail at this faithful servant love that both the bees and The Book teach us.
Being a faithful friend is something that Steve and I have always strived to be. To us that means being dedicated to the friendship through the good times and the bad times. It means sometimes giving extra patience and mercy to that “extra-grace-required” friend. It means over-looking differences of opinion – politics, theology, child rearing, schooling, etc, etc, – and knowing you can still have a relationship, agreeing to disagree. It means being willing to put time into people’s lives, being willing to “get dirty” or lend a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on during the tough times in people’s lives. And yes, sometimes, being a good friend also means that at crisis points, what might be necessary is a kick out the door, for a time. And it also means sticking around long enough through the hard times, to be able to get to the joy! And now our children are trying to teach their children a few lessons from the Book and the BEEs!
1 Corinthians 13
from “The Message” Bible
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.