Message from the Minister: The Flight of the Bumblebee

Probably most of us are acquainted with the urban myth that bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly. The so-called impossibility of their flight is evidently based on something to do with the lift to weight ratio. Their wing span is too small to generate enough ‘lift’, given their size and weight.

Yet, wonder of wonders and, as a miracle of nature, they very obviously can.

The difficulty, however, is not that bumblebees are somehow able to defy aerodynamic wisdom. Rather, the problem is a faulty analogy between bees and conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Bee wings are relatively small compared to their bodies. If an aircraft was built in the same way it would never get off the ground. But bees aren’t like aircraft; they’re more like helicopters. Their wings work on the same principle as helicopter blades… or, to be precise, ‘reverse-pitch semi rotary helicopter blades’. A moving airfoil, whether it’s a helicopter blade or a bee wing, generates a lot more ‘lift’ than a stationary one.

The real challenge with bees isn’t aerodynamics but mechanics. i.e. how they manage to move their wings so fast – up to 200x per second!! The answer seems to be that their muscles don’t expand and contract like other vertebrates. Instead, they vibrate like a rubber band. A nerve impulse ‘twangs’ the muscle, much as you might pluck a guitar string, causing it to move up and down until another impulse comes along.

The achievement is impressive and the bumblebee is still a wonder of creation… but on different grounds from the urban myth that bumblebees somehow defy nature. The problem with the myth is that it’s based on the misapplication of an idea to reality. And that raises a question about how many other mistaken ideas we might apply to life – especially our own lives.

Bumblebees never have to bother about opinions, so are never ‘grounded’ by notions which suggest they aren’t supposed to fly. But people are different. Beliefs have a powerful effect on how we live. And these can be either liberating or disabling. This is especially true of matters of faith. It’s interesting to note therefore that Jesus said to those who came to Him, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32)

The Christian journey is described in the Gospels as a journey into the Light. Jesus is spoken of as “the Light of the world” – “the One who enlightens all mankind” – the One who reveals our Heavenly Father to us and provides the key by which we make sense of life. Christians are thus called, “children of light”. Not that they know everything! It’s that they seek to live in honesty, exposed to the Truth of Christ’s glory and presence; allowing His searching Light to penetrate, cleanse and restore them.

This is contrasted with those who ‘walk in the dark’, who ‘prefer darkness’ and try to hide from His light and goodness. ‘Exposure’ is usually something we initially fear and some can have recurring dreams which revolve around that theme. Yet the Gospel invitation is to come into the light – His Light – and allow His grace to work within us. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. (John 8:36)

Like the bumblebee, and despite the different thoughts and opinions which may assail us, we were designed to fly. No matter what life’s hard knocks may have whispered to us, this is what we were created for – and it is Jesus who restores this purpose to us. “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

These are profound claims – yet claims which I’ve found increasingly true in my own experience… that is, when I actually DO walk in the Light. And ‘there’s the rub’! The Christian invitation is to walk daily in His goodness, resisting the instinct which tells us to hide, and trust in His tender mercies.

“Let us go (together) to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1)

Every blessing



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