Today I feel like Larry the Cucumber’s friend Oscar, though instead of being “stung by a bee right on the lip”, I was stung on my middle toe by a bee resting inside my shoe! A frustrating day for me, yes, but even stranger is how bees seem to follow me in ministry.
Let me start by saying, I am terrified of bees. I scream and move around all crazy when I see them. My first bee sting was at age 10, when a bee got stuck in the pant leg of my capris. I had a long dance rehearsal that night with the severe pain of a bee sting shooting through my calf. I’ve always disliked bees, but that put me over the edge. When we find bees in the house or in my office (yes my office), I make someone else kill them.
With that, let me describe my introduction at my first pastoral appointment. I walked into the well lit room, only to realize it’s not a room, but a side area of the open floor plan sanctuary. We begin to talk, and it’s going quite well, but I hear an occasional low buzz in the corner. I keep thinking I must just be nervous or crazy or something– 23 years old, trying to convince a table full of people that I’m a good fit to be their pastor (by the way, they agreed, and we had a lovely 3 years together, but that’s another story). Finally, the District Superintendent asks if they have any other things they hope I’d help with or lead through, and one person spoke up, “oh yes, the bees”.
Cue the double take.
That buzzing was real. They turned on the lights later and showed me the corner of the 3-story building that the bees had taken over, breeding inside the wall, filling one of the entryways, beating themselves to death on the stained glass window during the day, filling the floor and back pews with dead bees every evening….
Of course my first job as lead pastor, a position I’d been desperately praying for and fighting to find, would be filled with one of my greatest fears!
Within two weeks of being their pastor, the bees were gone. Legally I cannot disclose the methods of removal, as honeybees are protected to some extent in the state of Ohio. For the purposes of this story, let’s just say they really wanted to live somewhere else… like heaven.
Fast forward 3 years… I think I’m a bit braver as a leader in ministry, and ready for a full-time position. I’ve been moved to a large church as the Associate Pastor, and the local high school mascot is the Yellow Jackets. Oh, of course that’s just a fighting sports mascot, right?! Makes for great cheers and cute tshirts… No, they are the yellow jackets because yellow jackets have a ridiculously high population in that area. And my parsonage has roses and lucious landscaping on all 4 sides, bringing them to my home and in my home constantly.
Yet again, I’m in ministry with my greatest fear.
Fast forward another 2 1/2 years to my current position. While we’ve had our share of wasps and yellow jackets around the church and parsonage, it’s been fairly easy to spray the areas and limit the problem. The fact that my predecessor was a beekeeper should have clued me in, but I thought I might finally get to be in my comfort zone with this fear… until today.
For the past couple weeks, the occasional bee has snuck in my office window. The butterfly bushes right outside attract them, I think. Today, rather than tackle the one buzzing nuisance head-on, I decided to ignore it and let it beat itself to death on my windows. Ignoring my fear proved to be an awful decision. Minutes before I was planning to leave, I slipped my shoes back on and took a few steps and screamed. The creature had curled up in my shoe, stung my middle toe and died. I’ll spare you the ridiculous exclamations that sprung forth from my lips!
What’s the point? Well hours before I was stung today, I was laughing at the irony of yet another church with bees.
I laughed because these terrifying creatures are for me a reminder of how little I know when it comes to leading people as disciples of Jesus. They remind me that every place God takes me is a new learning curve, which necessitates a new dose of humility. Everywhere I go, God invites me to the challenge of bees.
In contrast, buzzing creatures remind me that even when I have chaotic seasons of ministry or difficult challenges (like the past couple months of non-stop have been), nothing is worse than a 3-story wall of bees. Very few things scare me more, nothing can overwhelm me more, and nothing can trigger more ironic laughter than that wall full of bees! Sometimes I’m floored at how much we truly are capable of when called by God and equipped by the Spirit. I can lead through “impossible” situations, resolve crises, witness miracles in my community, be a part of lives God is transforming, and so much more.
Even when I have chaotic seasons of ministry or difficult challenges, nothing is worse than a 3-story wall of bees.
So the moral of today’s musings: Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God. (Mark 10:27)
even overcoming a wall of bees…