Sometimes in homestead life, I am just knocked-over by the most unexpected metaphors. This time, it was a metaphor for life in beeswax.
Our first year of beekeeping on the homestead was unsuccessful in that the bees did not survive the winter. One hive absconded, and one hive couldn’t keep warm. We learned that the hives were really too small headed into the winter, and that this was because the queens were used to over-wintering in Georgia, not Maine. It was successful as a learning experience, and we understand that this is not unusual for first-year beekeepers, and so we have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and gotten ready to try again with our better-educated and better-equipped selves. As part of our preparations, we went through our hiveboxes, cleaning out frames, harvesting some delicious honey, and getting the boxes ready to be home to two new Maine-wintered colonies this spring.
And all of our cleaning left us with a giant pile of dirty wax, and this is where the metaphor began to unfold!
So bees produce wax, which turns out to be a really fascinating substance. They secrete wax from special glands. They chew it to soften it and busily build out their distinctive hexagonal honeycomb cells with it. Beeswax goes on to support the entire life cycle of the colony, being used and reused, produced and chewed and recycled and re-built as needed. It’s remarkable in that it can be softened and molded, but once it hardens in place, it tolerates a wide range of temperatures without softening and melting or becoming brittle and cracking. It is resistant to all sorts of microbes and fungi and diseases, supporting the general health of the colony and the generations of young that are being raised within its walls. Added to all that, it sports a beautiful, golden translucence, and a pleasant, nostalgic aroma. You just can’t smell a beeswax candle burning without taking a deep breath that puts a smile on your face!
And so it turns out that beeswax is also incredibly useful to us! We use beeswax as part of the finish for our woodenware and furniture. We use beeswax on canvas and muslin to create water-resistant journals, handbags and food wraps. We wax paper with it, we make lotion and lip balm with it, and we look forward to making candles with it one day. It is entirely non-toxic, safe for all purposes, and even has healing and protective properties for minor cuts and scrapes and chapping.
So you can see in God’s creation that He has designed something really delightful – remarkably well-suited to the work of the bees, and remarkably beneficial in the partnership between the bees and their human stewards. And that’s the beginning of the metaphor – God created it, and it is very good, indeed!
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…(Genesis 1:31, KJV)
Now, as the bees use the wax, it becomes dirty, contaminated by all the grime of life. As brood is raised and daily work is carried out, the wax becomes mixed with bits of pollen, dirt and dust, bee remnants, and generally any dirty particulates that come in on the feet of the bees or that result from the activities of daily live in a busy hive.
When the bees first produce wax for building, it is pale and creamy-white…
When we remove a frame after long use, the wax looks can be nearly-black…
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.(Psalm 14:2-3, ESV)
It’s terrible! It looks like it’s good-for-nothing-at-all except the compost heap! Kind of like life again, right? What started out pure has become entirely corrupted, and appears to be beyond all hope of restoration…
But actually, the beeswax is not entirely ruined. It just needs someone to care enough to take a few careful steps to remove all the dirt and grime and contamination of daily life.
Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.(Titus 2:14, NIV)
With a little patience, a little time, a little heat, and a little filtering, all of the contaminants are left behind…
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.(Psalm 51:10, KJV)
And what remains is a beautiful batch of fresh, clean beeswax! It’s a little richer in color from use, carrying with it the golden tones of many late-summer goldenrod blossoms, but it is fully restored and ready to be used once again for all-good-purposes! Clean and healthful and lovely and fragrant, once more…
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.(2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV)
The world is full of these fascinating metaphors…In which something pure and lovely, created by God for good purposes, is corrupted to the point of appearing completely destroyed, only to be purified and renewed and restored to its original beauty with a richness that speaks to its walk through the fiery trials of life!
…With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.(Matthew 19:26, KJV)
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.(Acts 22:16, NIV)