Life, Life, Life -- Lessons from My Mentor on Living a Bee's Life
"A bee comforted me very much this morning concerning the desultoriness that troubles me in our work. There seems so infinitely much to be done, that nothing gets done thoroughly... we seem only to touch souls and leave them. And that was what the bee was doing, figuratively speaking. He was hovering among some blackberry sprays, just touching the flowers here and there in a very tentative way, yet all unconsciously, life-life-life was left behind at every touch, as the miracle-working pollen grains were transferred to the place where they could set the unseen spring working. We have only to see to it that we are surcharged, like the bees, with potential life. It is God and His eternity that will do the work." - Lilias Trotter
Lilias Trotter is one of my mentors. I stumbled onto a biography about her life a few of years ago. I had seen Lilias' quoted and moved a quote over to a search engine box to learn more. That's when I learned about her life and began reading A Passion for the Impossible. Miriam Rockness chronicled the fascinating story of Lilias Trotter (b. 1853- d. 1928), who walked away from potential fame as a prominent watercolor artist during a time when women artists weren’t acknowledged in the art world. Tutored by John Ruskin, he would have promoted her art career, but she denied his pleas to pursue art in order to follow God’s call to Algeria in North Africa. Lilias became a missionary.
Lilias didn’t stop painting because she was in northern Africa. God had opened her eyes to beauty and that didn’t change though she no longer lived among the elite in London. She continued to fill her sketchbooks and journals with what she saw, always connecting her observations to how God works in the world, relating these revelations as parables. Lilias was open to see God’s divine truths illustrated in the landscapes and plants around her, and in the bees that caught her attention on a day that threatened to leave her despondent. There was little fruit from her efforts. The bee reminded her of her purpose.
Last month, I wrote about intentions I have for this year. I’m seeking to live more focused, especially in areas of my life that need attention. When I set my intention to avoid thinking like a victim, being the other in a disconnected world, practicing celebration as a spiritual practice, and learning to be a peacemaker, I knew all of these life goals would be nuanced. I could desire the kind of life I wrote about, but I am still learning how to live them out. There's not a clear-cut path or a check-off list that I can accomplish. Let’s just say I won’t be patting myself on the back anytime soon. Living intentionally requires a fluidity in living because life doesn’t march along in an orderly fashion.
The greatest times of spiritual growth in my life have come when I’ve slowed down. Slowing wasn't something I planned. It was very much a God-directed thing and one that I didn’t readily accept. It took me forever…years…to understand what the Holy Spirit was asking of me. When life quieted for this extrovert, it was very difficult. It was lonely. Something about my stubborn nature made me dig in and accept a rhythm that would challenge me to live in the in-between and believe God was at work. I was committed to seeing how this rhythm, which was so out of sync with life in the world, would pan out. It took years... years... to understand that God was using the process of surrender as his means of transforming my character--a process that is still and will always be His intention for me.
I’m in another season. Life is less quiet. Jeff and I had adjusted to the empty nest, but this winter Annie and her family are living with us while their house is being restored after pipes burst at their house while away during the holidays. My two little granddaughters are in the house building tents and scrounging in my make-up drawer. Luke is home after college and he’s hungry. My dad continues to need a second set of ears at his doctor appointments. There’s a new baby on the way. There are friends I need to sit with and others who need prayer. There are still others I want to do real life with; other relationships I am committed to through our connection on the internet. There's a mother of the groom dress that needs to be found—“life-life-life.”
Sometimes I feel as if I can only light on each bloom in my life for just a moment before I am called to the next thing. I want to believe that when these moments don’t seem like enough, they really are. God knows the path that I take. He knows what is mine to do. I believe He will lead me to whichever bloom needs my attention. I can him trust him to use me to pollinate the world with grace because of His grace toward me. He has taken full responsibility for the growth. Even in my busy season, I can rest in Him.
If we sat together this day and you asked, “Dea, what do I need to do to grow spiritually, I would say slow down. It’s so necessary…"Be still and know." But, I would say as well, if you can’t slow right now, then be encouraged, like Lilias you can alight where God leads trusting that your busy season will set the “unseen spring working.”
Did you realize that you can have mentors you haven’t met, people that lived in different times even? I always struggled with having a formal mentoring relationship since my spiritual mothers left for heaven when I was still a young mother. Even as I get older, or maybe especially as I get older, I value having mentors more and more, and I’m trying to be one for others when they invite me into their lives.
Do you have a mentor? Is there a mentor who has spoken into your life as they continue to influence the kingdom of God even though they lived in a different time? Who is it? I’d love to know.