Winter’s Devastating Blow
I knelt down in front of the hive analyzing the pile of dead bees. Reaching out with my hand, I scooped some of them up in order to confirm my suspicions. There were thousands of them lying one upon the other. Bringing them closer I could easily see that ninety percent of the bees had their tongues sticking out. Piled up in this capacity, with the tongues out is a sure sign of one thing . . . poison.
It all started when I was doing routine inspections working to get my bees ready for the winter. My colonies were healthy. Truly, thriving would be a better way to describe them. Solid counts of bees with strong queens good nutrition and no pest problems was a recipe shaping up to be a strong winter. At least, that was what I was hoping would happen. Once I cracked the colonies open I could clearly see 55% of them had dwindled down from 40,000-60,000 bees to only a couple of thousand within only about 2 weeks. Roundup had been sprayed near my hives without my consent after I had been promised it would not be. That fact probably would not have been so detrimental, except for the reality it was right in the middle of the golden rod flow which was growing plenteous in the sprayed area. My bees were foraging hard on that golden rod as they always do taking as much in as possible with chilly temperatures right around the corner. When the roundup was sprayed, my bees were right in the midst of the harvest. The foragers brought the poison back to the colonies which killed many bees, impacted the larvae, and everything else about the colonies. Wanting to be certain of this diagnosis, I contacted a couple of beekeepers decades into their careers who confirmed that they had seen before what I described. The question was, where do I go from here?
On the negative side, over half of my colonies were gone, and I would wind up coming into spring with 9 colonies total of which only 2-3 were strong. Positively, I was more experienced than ever before. Being too much in love with beekeeping to quit, I decided to plug along and take another swing at it despite the adversity which had come my way. My gameplan forward was difficult, but wound up being effective. Some of my colonies were killed by the spray, others were impacted heavily but did not die, while still others had no impact at all. What was the difference? I noted that the colonies impacted the least were the ones I had observed previously that happened to have the strongest genetic traits. Therefore, if I was going to rebuild, I needed to teach myself to raise my own honey bee queens in order to get the genetics I wanted into my bee yard. I would also need to grow in my ability to take young or weak colonies getting them to strength quickly in order to get some honey off them to help on the business end of things. So, I went off to the races in order to go through a wide variety of resources to learn how to take all these steps.
Rebuilding was no easy process, as anyone who has a business or is a beekeeper knows. Things did not go perfectly in 2022, but the bees produced more honey than any year of beekeeping for me personally and they are in a much better position than a year ago. I learned more about bees over the last year and understand how to take care of them with greater proficiency. More than anything, I was taught a living and breathing lesson on patient endurance. It is very easy to have a single “let’s go get them” moment of exhilaration where you grit your teeth and decide to rebuild. Maintaining that same dedication over the course of a year is another story. Our society is very gifted at short bursts of attention in one direction, but long-term dedication toward a goal is something altogether different. That is why we do not merely need endurance we need patient endurance.
Patient endurance is so important for us as believers that Christ mentions it in 3 out of the 7 letters to the churches in Revelation (2:2, 2:19, and 3:10). It is translated in that way by the ESV coming from the Greek word hupomonē which has a specific reference to enduring patience that continues cheerfully.1 We need this trait both individually as believers and collectively as local churches. It helps us to continue on when it would be easier to give up. Christ working it into our soul propels us with joy in Him as the trials of life arise. Patient endurance helps us to see beyond the current moment into the long term going past even this life into the next. Day by day we learn to keep marching forward as we look to an eternity of perfect love and goodness with the Lord. The point is that the work of the Christian and the work of the church takes time as Christ transforms souls by His Gospel. A mind and life submitted to the Scripture is discipled over the course of a lifetime. Just like rebuilding a bee yard is not a microwave experience, so also patient endurance is necessary for our life and labors as Christians.
Whether we think of William Wilberforce striving to abolish the slave trade, William Carey’s missionary endeavors, or perhaps Martin Luther sparking the Reformation, we see throughout history believers have had to endure patiently in that to which Christ has called them. My prayer is that over the course of this next year we shall take advantage of the opportunities which the Lord gives us each day. May we labor patiently enduring well for the glory of His name. Let us not only work for our own sakes, but for the future generations which shall come after us so that they may be given a biblical foundation from which to build upon. Patient endurance not only sees the current moment, but into the future seeking to labor in such a way that puts those who come after us in a better position than we were in our lives. Brick by brick the work is built through each generation which magnifies Christ. May we patiently endure as we joyfully undertake the work in this moment to which He has called us. I pray that 2023 is filled with many blessings for you. More than anything my hope is that it is ripe with opportunities for us all to glorify the name of our Savior as we preach His Gospel, teach all of His commands, and live faithfully according to them because of His grace and mercy!
1 For my fellow theological nerds, Luke 8:15 actually uses hupomonē when Christ is discussing the seed which falls on the good soil. These are the ones who bear fruit with patience over their lives according to Christ’s own words. Needless to say, that patient work would be joyful for we are laboring for the Master, but it would also be enduring because it is a work that lasts a lifetime. This text helps to highlight the point I am making by demonstrating that once the Gospel takes root, it shall produce Gospel fruit which is patient work for Christ!