Bees, Dead Leaves, and the Gospel

When I was in first grade, I loved bees.

Keep in mind this was the same kid who avoided the scads of Book Fair covers emblazoned with big-eyed puppies, kittens, and horses like they were the actual plague, so it’s not like I was an animal-lover in general. Nope. Just bees.

I remember frolicking in the field of pale pink clover blossoms beside the playground in the spring when all the other kids fled, sometimes catching bees in my hands and naming them.

This was partly because, at age six, I’d already realized there was some power in not being afraid of something that everyone else was afraid of. Also in being just a little bit weird.

But it was also because I’d been stung only once (entirely my fault and easily cured with some sympathy and baking soda), and I’d eaten honey dozens of times, and I knew that both stings and honey came from the same place. One of my favorite reading spots, the crab apple tree in the front yard, became the #1 rated honeybee restaurant for a few weeks each May, and I’d sit with my book in the crook of the most comfortable branch, listening to the hum of bees flying around me, gathering what they needed to make something beautiful.

I remembered all that this weekend as I climbed the same tree and the blossom-filled dome above me vibrated with buzzing and flight…and I felt perfectly safe and happy. Something that has made several of my friends shudder and run inside is still my favorite sound of spring.

This is the view from my old reading spot. I haven’t found a Minnesota reading tree yet; this needs to be fixed.

When it came time to climb down and start on yardwork at my parents’ house, I realized I have a weird favorite smell of spring, too.

Picture a woodpile stacked near the porch, and raking out a wheelbarrow-full of dead maple leaves that have been trapped behind it all winter. As soon as you do, you can smell drying wood and crumble-dry decay, but also dirt and worms and fresh-sprung grass and life.

I realize that description probably doesn’t make anyone want to concoct a new scent of cologne (which I would 100% buy), but I’m telling you, it’s fantastic. You breathe in deeply and you can smell the memory of fall and the death of winter into spring, all at the same time.

Which is, I get it, kind of strange.

There are some parts of springtime we can all agree are amazing—warm breezes and opening flowers and the plop of a turtle into the ice-free creek. Others, like the bees and the dead leaf smell, are a little more…underappreciated.

While I was raking, my dad was cutting up firewood with his chainsaw in the background. I get oddly philosophical while wearing earplugs, because it removes the option of talking and forces me to just think.

This time, I thought, “All of this is kind of like the gospel.”

There are some parts of our faith that almost anyone can appreciate—the power of sacrifice, the aching poetry of certain hymns, the value of community.

But beyond that…Christians are a little bit weird. We’re not afraid of the sting of death. We see life and hope instead of decay and despair when we worship on Good Friday. We hear something beautiful in the Bible when others only hear a terrible noise. Or, like Paul puts it, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

If I had started this post saying, “You know what I love most about spring? The sound of bees and the smell of dead leaves,” you probably would have thought, “Wow, Amy is crazy.” (Maybe you still do, but go with me here.)

Once I described it, maybe you changed your mind at least a little, to the point where you could see why I might enjoy those things.

But unless you’ve experienced them yourself, you won’t really know.

Same thing with Christianity. If you don’t know my Jesus, I can tell you facts about him that will sound pretty crazy. And maybe, on a good day, I can describe the experiences in my life that have convinced me that he’s real, and you might think, “Sure, I can understand why faith is important to her.” But until you know him, until you really understand the gospel…it’s not going to fully make sense.

But when you finally do, I promise, it’s like spring after a long, long winter.

One comment

  1. Have not heard much buzzing yet this spring, but just opened the window so we could hear the birdsongs.. at least five that I can distinguish. I love spring, and your delicious aroma description was spot-on. God paints the picture of resurrection for us every spring, doesn’t He?

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