December 14, 2017

Honey for a Lifetime from a Moment of Pain

Robert D. Vincent

My screams brought my mother hurtling out the front door of our home in Orange Park, Florida. From the volume of noise I was producing she no doubt suspected that I was on the verge of severe injury, or worse, that the injury had already taken place. By the time she reached me, I had hollered, jumped, and pranced around our carport passionately enough to surpass an Indian’s best effort to bring on rain. For the first time in my life, I was the unsuspecting victim of a bee sting. Today, when I recall the stinging pain underneath my right shoulder blade, I still shudder. Since that day my limited knowledge of bees has always been punctuated with the memories of the pain they can cause, especially for a four-year-old boy.

That moment in time is etched indelibly into my memory. The most significant part of the memory, however, is not the bee sting, but the events immediately following. After my mother rushed out of the house to rescue me from what I was convinced was a “near death” experience, she quickly realized that I needed some tender care . . . and a dose of reality. Taking me into the house, she doctored my wound, all the while listening to my cries and intense accusations about the meanness of the bee. While I blubbered and stewed, she just loved me by salving the wound. After the intensity of my cries abated, she steered me into the living room to sit down on the couch. She pulled a children’s encyclopedia from the shelf and turned to the section about bees. My warped and stunted conclusion about bees soon broadened to at least allow for the possibility that bees existed for purposes other than simply lurking in bushes or under the eaves of houses, waiting expectantly for the opportunity to zap little boys who happened by. Bees actually had some order and purpose to their existence of which I had been ignorant. In fact, God Himself was the very one responsible for designing bees with the ability to sting. While I secretly delighted to learn that some bees die after using their stingers, I did have to admit my view of bees had changed.

Looking back on the event, I now see that the major character in the story was not the bee. It was not even me. It was Mom. Framing the mental picture of that painful incident is the response of my mother. That bee did me a favor that day. He was the cameraman that gave me a picture of my mother—a kind of picture that has come into better focus in my own parenting years. Time has enhanced the picture rather than causing it to fade. Out of the pain of the moment, my mother extracted honey whose sweetness I have tasted for more than 30 years.

Many other memories of my mother have filled the intervening decades, and so many of them reinforce something I began to learn about my mom that day. She patiently listened, willingly cared, and when necessary, carefully inserted the truth to redirect my thinking. And though my mom will always be in a class by herself, I have come to realize that many other mothers share the heart that my mother habitually displayed. Mothers are one of the primary instruments God uses to lovingly open little hearts to Truth that might otherwise be disbelieved.

A mother’s words, uttered pleadingly in prayer to God or lovingly to a little child—how mighty a key to a child’s heart! Surely there is just cause to rise up and call her blessed (Prov. 31:28)!

Robert D. Vincent is an assistant pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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