“abide with me”


Sometimes when the inside of the cathedral is a bit crazy, I find myself on the roof.  There I find the bees hard at work and I linger, with the lid off one of the hives.  There was a smell I loved – it was a mixture of regal pheromones, wax, warm wood and honey.  Though I can no longer smell that smell, I still remember it if I close my eyes.  If I take my fingers and dig into one of the cells, a huge bubble of honey oozes out onto my finger and the taste left in my tongue still registers sweet if nothing else.  With thousands of bees whirling around one’s face and body, the senses are alive.  I am never stung and do not wear a suit for these visits.  They sense I am calm, and a friend, and they seem to be able to know that there is no threat.  Rather, I wonder if they know how much they are loved and appreciated.

They are all so busy getting their work done on our roof.  They fly less now.  It is starting to get cold and they are tightening up into their winter ball, vibrating their wings so that their shoulder muscles generate the 98 degrees required to keep her majesty warm and comfy.

The sex of the summer is over.  Those magical flight patters between the queen and her intended sexual partners are so beautiful, like the images of bi-planes from world war one doing loop-de-loops around each other, trying to get angles and approaches right. Having sex in mid air is tricky – especially with a size differential. When they are finished with their “deed” the male plummets from the air to the earth, dead, having had its organs ripped out by the queen as her final act of love making. Quite the sweet and sour experience.

The dance between hope and fear is similar.  There is palpable danger. Things could go one way or another.  We tend to hold fear and hope together in our two hands as we make our pilgrimage through life, not sure which is the hand to squeeze. In a moment of a day a hope may turn to fear.  Then some development takes the fear back into hope.  It is like watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing around a ballroom floor.  We see one, then the other.  First black and white, then turquoise and pink.  They twirl.  They dip.  They embrace, then they unfold away at arm’s length.

Jesus said over and over again “Do not be afraid.”  And although libraries are full of books on love and faith, hope tends to get half a shelf.  And at times it is actually easier to not be afraid than it is to have hope, since the evil around us seems un-dealt-with, un-resolved, even enabled by people who simply do not want to engage in conflict and so sin by omission.  It happens in nations (Nazi Germany, McCarthyism ), in religions (Jim Baker, Jim Jones, Chinese invasions into Tibet), in families (a bully father or little brother) and in marriages (a manipulative spouse) and yet rather than deal with the problem, we dance around it in a strange Virginia Reel of hope and fear and then wonder why we are so tired.

The solution, it seems, is to face the fear head on, hold the hope as  promise from God that all shall be well one day, and then wait in that unresolved space without giving into the temptation to push a resolution into place.  Waiting (John’s Gospel calls it “abiding”) is a valuable tool in our Christian life.  It does not mean we are not acting, it simply means we are taking the time to really see what is going on around us.  No one person can change a system just as no one bee can make 80 pounds of honey harvestable from a hive.  But a community of bees can do wonders working together, seeing what needs to be seen and acting in millions of tiny steps.

To be willing to stay in the in-between place of “no resolution” has different terms in different religious traditions. It is not a lack a hope nor is it a lack of fear.  It is a willingness to pause long enough to see between the two- to see that pathway forward which we, when at our best, are often courageous enough to choose.

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