In the late 1800’s a little nursery rhyme became as much a part of every child’s upbringing as Patty Cake and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Mothers, nursemaids, and nannies would fold their hands, intertwine their fingers, and recite in unison with the enamored child: “Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the door and there’s all the people.” Written in Old England, where magnificent church steeples peppered the skyline of every village, this legendary rhyme is sound theology. At the core of every church, every community, and every group, are people. Open the doors and there they are—intertwined whether they like it or not. They come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and according to Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV), were made in the image of God. Screwtape, the notorious senior devil who serves as the protagonist in C. S. Lewis’s classic, The Screwtape Letters, is well aware of the diversity of human beings and instructs Wormwood, his young protégé, to do his very best to discourage the young Christian, whom he refers to as the “patient.” He writes,
“Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.”
Screwtape knows the frailty of humanity that exists in a community.
This summer, while laboring over “The Waggle Dance: Breaking Barriers and Building Unity among Women,” my book proposal on the topic of true spiritual unity, I spent a few moments one humid afternoon with friend and beekeeper, Greg. During our time, I asked him where he gets his bees.
“Well, you buy bees in a box of about 5,000,” he shared. “Then you take them to the hive and pour the box of bees into the hive.”
“That’s it?” I asked. “You just go to the store, buy a box of bees and begin a hive?”
“Yes, it’s that simple,” Greg smiled.
“Well, how in the world do you get all those bees into that little wooden box?” I asked, knowing absolutely nothing about this process. Curiosity definitely had the best of me.
“It’s pretty simple. You just dump them in,” he said while lifting the lid of the top layer of the hive.
“5,000 bees? Don’t they swarm and attack you?” I minced.
“The funniest thing happens,” he laughed. “Instead of attacking you, they cling together. All 5,000 bees form this huge clump and just drop into the hive. They get really nervous in an unsure environment. It’s a sight to behold. Looks a lot like ‘Grandma’s Molasses’.”
Who knew that a box of bees holds such a powerful secret? Tomorrow, my family enters an unsure environment. Brooke is having brain surgery (a craniotomy?) to correct a Chiari Malformation/Syringomyelia. When the neurologist first shared this diagnosis with me, I thought she was speaking another language. She had to write it down so I could do some research in order to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. All I remember her saying to me was, “Mrs. Rardon, this is serious. You know that, right?” Well, actually, no, because I had no idea what she was talking about. My initial response to the doctor was, “Well, just tell me. We are overcoming people, so tell me what we have to overcome.” I must have sounded like an idiot, but I was in a state of shock. I really wanted to say, “Seriously? Brooke has something else wrong with her? Tell me you are kidding. Please, tell me this is a bad dream.” Just days before, the orthopedic doctor had diagnosed a 29% increase in Brooke’s scoliosis, making it at 39 degrees now, and the ENT suspected lymphoma. Watching Brooke endure the needle biopsy for that test just about broke my heart. Thank God, the results were negative.
Now, some three-four months later, after a great deal of reading, I understand.
For our family, this diagnosis forced us into an unsure environment—one that has been quite unsettling, to say the least. I find myself on the verge of tears about every five minutes or so. But, tomorrow, much like that box full of bees, our family will be poured into DePaul Hospital, clinging to one another—Grant in Kansas, Candace in London, Rob, Brooke, and I at DePaul—and clinging to an Almighty God who resides over both our individual lives and the life of our family. And, for the first time in three years, we will be together for Christmas. The timing of this reunion no mistake.
Do you find your family being poured into an unsure environment this holiday? this new year? If so, please learn from that simple box of bees.
Cling—stick, hold fast, resist separation, entwine, embrace, grasp—to one another. Satan comes to separate. God comes to strengthen.
I can’t begin to express the gratitude in my heart for all the prayers being offered for our family at this time. Just yesterday alone, countless friends and church family members sent emails, facebook messages, and offered hands on my shoulders and hugs from the heart, expressing their commitment to pray. This community outpouring of love and support lessens our fears, calms our nerves, and honestly, feels a great deal like a big dose of “Grandma’s Molasses.”