Learning from bees

Earlier this month the Serving Christ Team discovered a bumble bee nest just outside our window. Obviously bees are crucial for our ecosystem and we are allowing them to stay. The plan had been to leave the windows shut but weather has different ideas. And, so several times a day we have a giant bumble bee struggling to make it out through the glass window until someone comes to its aid and releases it outside.

They work together for the hive.

Bees are remarkable creatures. Bumble bees seem to defy the laws of physics in their ability to fly. Honey bees somehow create a golden liquid that is lovely in cakes and on toast. Despite being small, they work together on mass, each with their own role for the hive.

As I’ve watched our bees coming and going over the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about their ability to live together and what we can draw from them. I keep coming back to the way they communicate to help each other. 1

Bumble bees tell each other where the best pollen is by dancing and releasing a pheromone in the hive, so the bees go out to look for the flowers with the same scent. Honey bees take it a step further and have specific dance moves to communicate distances and direction, so the other bees can head out. The sun is used as a point of reference and so the dance changes as the sun moves. When sharing with the hive, they are honest about where they have been, hold a shared point of reference and respond to what they have been told.

There is much we can learn from the bees and apply to our own church communities as we socialise and chat.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.”

We need to be honest about where we have been and where we are. Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). But people cannot know who is rejoicing and who is mourning unless people are willing to share were they are. It takes trust and vulnerability to answer the question ‘How are you?’ with honesty. But so often one person’s honesty begins to break down barriers for others and truth is shared about where we are and where we have been. 

We need to respond to others’ honesty. If people are willing to trust us then we are called to respond in love and care. The bee’s response is to rush off and find the flowers. Our response is to stay and travel alongside that person. This might be practical help, a listening ear, sharing experiences or an offer of prayer. Equally important to our immediate response is that we remember and ask them about it later too.

We need to remember our point of reference. Jesus is “the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Whether we are sharing joys or struggles we need to keep our eyes focused on God. We need to encourage ourselves and others to recognise God working in the good things that happen. We also need to raise difficulties up to God in prayer and to look for where God is working within the situation. Telling someone that you are praying means they may see God’s answer themselves. Our honesty and responses are not about what we can do, but about what God can do.

Bees are sustained by the honey created by their careful, precise communication as they share and respond. We are sustained by God. Keeping our focus on him as we share and respond to each other reminds us to see the sweetness of God’s involvement more and more.

Are you willing to share honestly about your life? Will you respond with love and grace when someone opens up to you? Will you seek where God is working in your life and help others to do the same? 

  1. Please do not use this to write a biology paper on bees, I may not be entirely correct in my limited knowledge.
Anna Naish
Learning Mentor for Loving Relationships and Holistic Small Groups.