Lots of people boast that they are an open book, but it can be awkward when someone reads your marginal thoughts. For example, when someone is describing upcoming events that must be planned for and stops to say, “You’re making a list in your head, aren’t you?” There’s no covering that one with a stammering, “I’m listening. Go ahead.” Within minutes she stops again to say, “Now you’re color-coding the list, aren’t you?” Busted.
Today as I started cleaning, I found myself humming “Flight of the Bumblebee”. When my husband thinks I am a little too worked up and flying around the house too quickly, he says I am “buzzing”. Although my tendency is to be a busy-bee, my goal is to have what today I have named a “Bee-attitude”. (Not to be confused with the Beatitudes Jesus described in Matthew 5.)
Bees are profoundly hardworking and fast-moving, providing for the hive, producing honey, stinging threats, and serving as pollinators for plants which keeps other species producing. We see them as busy, but they are humming along with purpose and do not get side-tracked. Smelling the roses is an important part of their day.For all their coming and going, they work diligently in the hive and communicate to others with some hot dance moves and codes that are still a mystery to humans. (This home can testify that interpretive dance can be an effective means of communication, but it can leave bystanders a bit confused. There’s always a risk of busting the rear while busting a move.)
As a child, I attended a camp that gave out a “Bumble Bee Award”. This did not go to the busiest or most hard-working child; it went to the child who refused to be limited by boundaries and obvious limitations. The award is so named because by all measurements and laws of aerodynamics, the bumble bee should not physically be able to fly. Unfortunately, no one showed those charts and figures to the bees. Their livelihood and our honey is made possible because their ‘limitations’ don’t limit them at all. The usual recipients of the Bumble Bee Awards were not the busiest or hardest working; they were usually the littlest and youngest campers who gave their full effort and achieved their athletic goals with focused determination. All 50 pounds of these scrawny kids would be hoisted onto shoulders of older and bigger boys, who would jubilantly cheer and proclaim, “He just flies! He doesn’t care, oh he doesn’t care!” The hive would swarm, and the taste was sweet.
There are hundreds of hard working and accomplished people in the Bible, but let me ask you- who comes to mind when I ask you who was the Bible’s most famous ‘busy bee’? I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t a temple builder, father of dozens, king, or shepherd. Was it Martha of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazerus? Martha is one of my favorite ladies of the Bible but she is often criticized for her busyness while Jesus visited her home. I can identify with poor Martha. This woman clearly had a passion for hospitality; she invited Jesus and a hoard of his disciples into her home without warning! Her home was filled not only with the Son of God (where are the good hand towels and soaps?) but a slew of stinky, hungry men tracking dirt across her floors. Luke may have been a detailed gospel writer, but he was also a man. Thus, his explanation of what happened went a bit like this: 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.” No wonder why her heart for hospitality gave way; she was cooking, serving, and trying to provide for the needs of those around her. No time for a potty break or Sam’s Club trip for more toilet paper. Not one woman came into the kitchen to ask, “How can I help?” and Martha didn’t want Jesus going hungry. Even Mary, Martha’s sister, deserted her kitchen post. Finally, the busy bee launched a biblical sting operation.
“And she went up to him (Jesus) and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[e] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha went from a ‘bee attitude’ to ‘busy as a bee’; while she buzzed around her hive, she missed the sweet nectar offered to her. Her public, gentle scolding is now one of the most famous. This is where most sermons depart from the Scripture, but you are not so lucky, my dear reader. I want to skip ahead to when Martha’s house hits a real crisis mode. Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus has died, and Jesus chose not to come to Bethany to save him. Hurt, anger, sorrow, grief, and confusion loomed over our girls…and then Jesus finally shows up outside of Bethany. No one would blame Martha for having her stinger out. Although Mary had previously chosen the ‘good portion’, she now chose to stay in her house mourning and not to go to Jesus’ feet. Meanwhile, Martha went running and made a bee-line for Jesus.
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
(Pretty profound statement. The church leaders couldn’t agree on this idea and the disciples scratched their heads until after Jesus rose.) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:21)
(Round of applause, cheer with high-kick!) Atta girl, Martha! In her moment of grief she did not question Jesus’ goodness or power, but believed and proclaimed a statement that had not yet been declared in Scripture. As she faced the sting of death, she grasped the promise of eternal life. No longer distracted by ‘many things’ (like death or grief), Martha claimed her bee-attitude. No amount of buzzing or effort could have made a difference, but she knew to keep moving and where to go. Before long, Martha and Mary stood with Jesus outside Lazarus’ tomb and knew Jesus could be taken at His word; “Your brother will rise again”.
Soon after Jesus and the disciples were again in Martha’s house to celebrate Passover, and both girls are busy serving. Martha was serving doing a bee-dance around the hive to communicate love and joy. Mary was anointing Jesus’ feet with sweetness she had stored away. Both had a bee-attitude. When Judas criticized Mary’s outpouring, Jesus gave Mary a Bumble Bee Award. Others said she couldn’t or shouldn’t pour out her expensive jar of sweet-smelling nard over Jesus, but she didn’t care. The wings that are supposed to limit bumble bees are the very things that let them soar.
Today as I make my to-do list, I’ll be making a choice. Am I going to buzz around, busy as a bee without purpose or will I provide for my hive without dwelling on limitations? Hopefully, the latter. Proper bee-attitudes with a bee’s work ethic produce the sweetest kind of honey.