I bought a new tub of honey today. Facebook has been challenging us to think of normal things which we appreciate, and I've got to put honey on my list. Today's purchase made me remember a homeschooling excursion the kids and I took with a group years ago, to a local, Adelaide Hills honey operation. It's situated in a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, and we knew the owners, a husband and wife team who used to attend our old church. They led us through each stage of their business until the end, when Buzz Honey jars as we know them, are ready to be distributed among all the shops.
I was very impressed with how hard the staff work each day, to ensure that people have a sweet spread for their toast and cups of tea. Like the farmers who provide other produce, conditions must align perfectly for honey to happen. There must be a variety of nectar bearing flowers and healthy hives. But I couldn't help being just as impressed with the dedicated labour of their thousands of unpaid workers in their black and yellow striped uniforms. It's incredible to think of all those bees doing it just for the sheer love of it. Instead of thinking, 'I wonder how I should spend my life?' they just know what business they should be about. And the Buzz Honey family can rest assured that none of the bees will ever pull a fake sickie to go off to the beach instead. They are fully dedicated to the making of honey, because it's their calling. It's in their DNA.
But is honey really so significant, that God made a whole class of insects dedicated to processing it? I set myself the challenge of searching for the blessing of honey in the Bible. It's definitely hidden away there on several occasions. During the famine, Jacob sent his sons to plead a second time for food in Egypt, hoping to butter up the gruff ruler with some of their local honey, among other things. Years later, God promised to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt back to a land 'flowing with milk and honey' as an incentive to make them willing to leave. Then, when they'd settled in their land in the time of the Judges, Samson was very impressed to find some bees had made a makeshift hive out of the carcass of a lion he'd killed. He even wrote a riddle about it.
In the time of the kings, Saul declared that his army must fast completely until the enemy Philistines were vanquished. His son, Jonathan, wasn't around to hear about the oath. Jonathan stuck the end of his staff in some honeycomb and licked it, and we're told 'his eyes immediately brightened.' When Jonathan found out about his father's decree, he sensibly reasoned, 'My father has caused trouble for the country. Look at how my energy was renewed with just a little bit of honey, compared to how weak and faint you guys are.' And he averted the punishment of death.
Honey appears in the New Testament too, as part of John the Baptist's staple diet. I imagine he might have used it to dip his locusts into. I wouldn't blame him for wanting to sweeten them. If it's good enough for John, it's good enough for me, although I'd pass up the locusts. Honey gets enough mentions to make me think it's a pretty good sweetener, anyway. (I don't think sugar gets one plug from Scripture, although it didn't really take off until Medieval times. It wasn't unheard of in ancient times though. Persia's King Darius invaded India in 510 BC and found 'the reed which gives honey without bees, presumably sugar cane.) I haven't even mentioned the many times honey is referred to in the books of Psalms and Proverbs as something sweet, desirable, even health-promoting. Those bees really are carrying out a fabulous work.
Maybe, when we think about it, we're not all that different from the bees. Many writers do quite a bit of work solely for the love of it, just because we consider it part of our calling. Even when publishing contracts are elusive, we keep writing. We are self-motivated, often having to fight for those quiet hours, which may so easily be swallowed up by other demands. And not many who ever throw their heart and soul into a writing lifestyle/career can be accused of being in it just for the money! Yet like the bees, we don't give it a second thought, because we'd rather write than stop. Every so often, somebody says, 'You work so hard, it really is a shame that there isn't a regular minimum wage,' and we think, 'Hey, yeah, that would be nice.' But it really doesn't make a lot of difference to us either way, because we're not going to stop the work we do. And if we are like the bees, it follows that our work may be like honey. Those of us who contribute posts to this blog have collectively written a variety of books, articles and blog posts to inspire others and add their own type of sweetness to the world.
Perhaps I'll go and spread a bit of honey on some toast, and remember that we're just the same as those hard-working bees. It's a good calling.
Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.