Bees in Bonnets and Burrs in Saddles
Have you ever actually had a bee in your bonnet? How about one of those pokey burrs under your saddle? No? I didn't think so. Probably because you ladies don't where bonnets much these days, and you men don't ride horses. But you understand the picture. Both images point to a seemingly little thing that if left unaddressed causes a major problem. Albeit the bee in the bonnet being the more immediate kind of problem. These bees and burrs can be many things. An annoying habit of your spouse. A constantly unresolved dilemma. A button that keeps getting pushed at work. A slow boil of discontentment about an issue. We let these things fester and we become disgruntled, we become agitated, we lose our joy and our peace and even our fellowship with others.
This can happen in the home, in the neighbourhood, at work and at school. And perhaps not surprisingly it can happen in the church as well. But why does this happen? Short answer, we are all different. We often think differently, we develop different convictions on things, we value things differently. Add to that the fact in any given church there is simply the presence of many preferences, stemming from the diversity of the church body. And yet with all of that said, you cannot underestimate the presence of sin, especially the sin of pride. The simple sin of insisting on your own way, and becoming sullen when you don't get what you want. All of these things, whether sinful or not can lead a person to become disgruntled at church, or in the home or at work. You want to be encouraging and upbeat, but you are bothered. They did that thing again. That detail was overlooked again. What you want to see happen is still not happening. These things can be burrs in the saddle, and if left unchecked they can become a root of bitterness.
The writer to the Hebrews warns us of this:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15).
This is the problem with a little bit of bitterness, or a little burr or a bee, it grows. And not only does it grow inwardly, it can spread far and wide and take many more down with it. How could this happen? Just imagine that you are constantly bothered by something. It starts in your head and heart, but soon it translates to body language. If left unchecked you start to air your complaint to others, and now they too have this discontent sparked in them. In church this can be a complaint about the preaching, the people, the music, or many other things.
It can be like a goldilocks problem – this sermon is too long, this one not long enough. This music is too loud, this music is too quiet. This song is too old, this song is too new. We are like goldilocks, trying to find the perfect fit for our tastes. And yes sometimes we dress up our tastes in the language of conviction. But all the same it is a burr in the saddle. We let differences of taste and preference dampen our joy and mute our engagement. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. Beware the danger to your own soul and to the souls of others. This burr can become a bitter root, and others could easily follow your example and the bitterness can grow.
So what is the solution to this problem? Well perhaps not surprisingly it is to check your heart by the standard of God's word. We recently finished a large series on the one anothers of Scripture. The articles I wrote are not hard to read, or at least I hope not, but like the verses themselves they are hard to apply. When we are feeling annoyed with our brother, or disgruntled by something, that is not a moment to endulge the feeling, but to check your heart. Why am I feeling this way? The kids are loud and exuberant and I am becoming a curmudgeon about it – why? Maybe I am right that they are being too loud, but what should my heart be towards them? Displeasure and anger, or loving concern and patience that bears with my little brothers and sisters? Maybe I think things should be done differently at church, but what did the elder's choose to do? Should I brood over my disagreement and become bitter, or should I joyfully let it go and join in the worship of God with all of God's people? I think the answer to these questions is obvious. But like I said, it is not hard to understand it is just hard to obey.
We can come up with many excuses for our disobedience, but seen in light of the mirror of God's Word they all come up empty. We are all stopped in our tracks when we read:
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
I read this verse and I am convicted by a dozen things in a dozen different circumstances. I can see how I fall short. But this is the beautiful tone we are trying to set as Christian people in this world. This is the bar the Lord calls us to hit. We take the diversity of our backgrounds, our preferences, and even some of our convcitions and yet we are united in one body. It is the love for one another with forebearance and forgiveness that brings such beautiful harmony. And it is all purchased and given to us as a gift from Christ himself. Why can the church belt out one song together – even with a myriad of musical preferences? Because we are united in one Saviour, and He is worth checking my particularities at the door. Why can the church enjoy fellowship with such a variety of characters from all walks of life? Because we have come to see that having Christ in common is the strongest tie that binds. We will not be easily annoyed with our brother. Because the Lord loves him, so will I, so must I.
Maybe the Lord is bringing some burrs and bees to your mind right now. Whether at church, in your home, or in your relationships. Well don't just sit there. Confess to the Lord where you have been impatient, disgruntled, bitter, or unloving. Ask the Lord to forgive you and commit yourself to living with the love and peace of God ruling your heart. He is gracious. He is patient. He loves us. May we become more and more like Him and live in this world with that kind of freedom, joy, and love.
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