So…I did it. I finally got my bee tattoo (actually, I got it some time ago, but I waited to share). First, I want to start off with a disclaimer and back story, because I know tattoos are a touchy subject for many of my fellow Christians and I feel a need to explain my Christian tattoo meaning (I know I shouldn’t have to, but it is meant as a way to extend respect to those with different views):
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Many people know that I love tattoos. Biblically, I do not personally have a problem with tattoos in general. The commonly-referenced “anti-tattoo” verse in the Bible Old Testament (Leviticus 19:28) actually refers to the practice of scarification, which was used by the Canaanites as part of pagan rituals to mourn the dead and worship pagan gods. Of course it would make sense that that would not be allowed for Christians (and yes, this body modification is still practiced). Others may now quote the verse that reminds us that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Remember, the temple was ornately decorated!
That being said, I do believe that Christians are held to a different tattoo standard…it is important to think through what you are putting on your skin (avoiding things that are disturbing, hateful, not kid-friendly…), but that is between you and God.
I don’t say all of this to offend anyone or tell you to have a different view than you have, but rather to let you know that I have thought this through and prayed about it and, as a Christian, I believe I have the freedom to do this and hope my fellow Christians respect that. God is a personal God. He gives different convictions to different people; what may be wrong for one person may be fine for someone else, as long as it doesn’t violate solid biblical principles (i.e. not having any gods before God/loving God and loving your neighbor–Matthew 22:36-40).
What’s the story behind this tattoo?
If you know me, you know that I don’t just do things. Even my “spontaneous” actions tend to be very thought out, so you can rest assured I put a lot of consideration and prayer into this.
I’d been wanting another Christian tattoo for some time. I’m artsy. It’s a way to express my love of art in everything. However, I could not justify it without a meaningful purpose behind it. I’d thought and thought and prayed about it and decided I’d just wait. I didn’t have any meaningful ideas. I’d all but forced the idea back out of my head when this idea for a bee tattoo hit me.
For some time now, I’ve been really challenged by honey bees. There’s so much we can learn from them. I began my bee tattoo with the idea of a simple honey bee and some flowers, but as I drew, mindlessly (I was not in control of the design at this point), the full story began to form on the paper in front of me. The verses came to mind. It was the perfect shape for my arm. It all made sense.
I didn’t want to be flashy, and really did not plan on anything big, but I do want people asking me the story behind it because I want it to show them my faith, encourage them, challenge them, and bless them. I believe the design is exactly what it is supposed to be.
This bee tattoo came at a difficult time in my life. As some of you who follow my site may know, I struggle with infertility (which we have learned my husband now struggles with too). The past several years we have been trying for more children, but with no luck.
I still wasn’t really ready to get this, but the idea buzzed incessantly in my mind, getting louder and louder. I discussed with my husband and we prayed about it and agreed that, if I wasn’t pregnant that month (and I really thought I was that time), I’d go ahead and get that tattoo. The very next day I learned I was definitely not pregnant.
Rather than wallowing in heartbreak yet again, I looked back at this Christian tattoo design and was reminded of so many things, so I made the move to have this powerful reminder made permanent. It’s not God’s timing yet for another baby, and that’s okay. I won’t give up hope.
This design is a testimony of patience, love, provision, blessing, struggles, and so much more. It is inspired by something I both fear and admire. This tattoo immortalizes (in a sense) not only my conflict and suffering, but the peace and hope I have in the midst of it all. It is a visual reminder to me when I am feeling fearful or depressed or hopeless. The bright colors, its message, the story behind it remind me of God’s goodness and healing and protection.
The process in and of itself was also symbolic. While this honestly didn’t hurt me, it definitely was uncomfortable at times and for many can be painful. But that pain led to something beautiful. It added color to my life. Without that pain/discomfort, the beautiful reminders that encourage me and challenge me would not be there.
Bee Inspired | My Meaningful Tattoo
The Short Story
When you first glance at my design, you’ll notice it begins with flowers at the bottom that lead up to honeycombs that lead to strawberry plants. This shows how bees pollinate flowers to make more grow (which is also how we get delicious and essential foods like strawberries) and they collect the nectar to make deliciously sweet honey.
This tattoo is a visual reminder of God’s goodness:
- Life is full of trials and pain and scary things, but those are all important to grow and shape us and the world and to add beauty to life; blessings come from trials
- If we remain steadfast and patient during these trials, they won’t be as difficult; remember that God will get us through and God gives healing.
- God uses the small things of this world to make a huge impact.
- Spreading kindness and the love of Jesus can bring new life and beauty to the world.
- Life isn’t perfect, but it’s perfectly imperfect.
WHEN LIFE STINGS
Bees are pretty scary, aren’t they? I think most people fear bees, at least to some extent. Even beekeepers suit up in a bunch of gear to take care of their own bees. Some reasons we fear bees include their sting which can pack a powerful punch, allergic reactions can make stings far worse, and if a bee that feels attacked in some way can release “alarm” pheromones to alert other bees that it is in danger so they come to the rescue…by the swarm.
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” What an amazing verse!
My grandma loves telling this story: when I was a very young child, we were in her basement walking to the laundry room when some type of bee/wasp landed on my chest. Why a bee was in the cold basement, we may never know (besides to present the perfect analogy here), but nonetheless it was there.
She told me to stand very still and, rather than do what most children would do and completely freak out, I stood there. Still. Calm. Waiting for it to leave. Had I panicked, it surely would have stung me.
In my time of trial, fear, and possible pain, I stood the test. Sure, I still had that fear (who wouldn’t?) and I still had to go through that trial, but because I stood still and trusted it would be okay, trusted that the bee would eventually leave, and trusted my grandma’s instruction, that trial was a lot less difficult than it would have been otherwise.
Bees, particularly honey bees, are a metaphor for our lives. Bees are frightful. They can cause us various trials, from an inconvenient ouch to a life-or-death hospital trip. They can be annoying when you were simply trying to enjoy a beautiful day on your patio. YET these same bees are essential to life.
Now that we’ve established that bees are a sort of metaphor for the fear, trials, and inconveniences of Life, yet also bring life and are essential for continued life and well-being, we can reference back to that sweet, sweet verse, James 1:12. In life, God uses these various trials (as quick as a bee sting, as big and scary as an allergic reaction, and as constant and overwhelming as being chased by a swarm of bees) as a means of bringing us blessings and awarding us a crown of life.
As I still struggle to conceive, as I struggle to understand the sad state our nation is in and the fear that so easily creeps in when hearing news stories, as I struggle to deal with chronic pain issues, as I remember that there will be trials in Life, I am comforted to know that I can stand still during these tests–I can know that God is God and He is in control (Psalm 46:10)…I can trust that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)…I can stand on the promises of God–and I can have a “peace that passes all understanding” (Psalm 4:7).
Trials are just the annoying, stinger-butt bugs of Life from which blessings flow and beauty grows.
We are to “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2). This seems counter-intuitive, but when you focus on the end results rather than the actual trials (i.e. when you are thankful for the food instead of focusing on how much you hate the bees), you will realize that you really do have a reason to be happy through these trials.
THE SMALL THINGS
I’ve had a healthy fear of bees for quite some time now (the killer bee conundrum didn’t help that one bit–am I dating myself?). Usually I try to avoid them, but the more I learn about them and study them and realize why God gave us bees, the more I am fascinated by them. They’re incredibly amazing creatures and there’s a lot we can learn from them!
Bees are an integral part of the world working in the way God made it to. He knew exactly what He was doing when he created them.
Unless you’ve really studied honey bees, you may not realize how very huge of an impact they have on our world. They impact far more than flowers or honey…building supplies, air purifying plants, medicine.
The honey bees make is not only used for cooking, but can also be used to fight pesky seasonal allergies; they create wax which can be used (as well as honey, venom, and jelly) to create a wide variety of medicinal and antibacterial products; they can help us predict the weather with their buzzing habits; they are essential to growing plants (foods, flowers, etc) that can be used as sustenance, various materials, hygiene products, medications, air purification, and even mental health; and they have a huge impact on the economy (imagine what would happen if bees were wiped out on farms that produce livestock feed or farms that provide nutritious food for us to eat or farms that would go to fuel or building materials or for creating life-essential medications!).
Save the bees! Am I right?
So often, we feel small. Useless. Why would God bother with us? What difference can we really make? Remember–over and over in the Bible, God uses the simple and foolish and seemingly insignificant things to do His work.
God can use you to do incredible things. There is no limit to what He can do through you. As small as we are as humans, we can each make a difference. None of us is too small for God.
God uses the small things of this world to make a huge impact!
Now think about when all the little bees of the hive work together; what incredible tasks they accomplish! Get a bunch of small bees doing their seemingly menial tasks together and you can pollinate many acres of vegetation.
Now imagine how much all of us, God’s worker bees, can accomplish if we work in one accord…all of us, coming together with our small voices in our tiny corners of the earth, sharing the Good News and spreading kindness. We can bring more beauty to the world. We can bring love and joy and color and life!!
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Honey bees are truly a show of God’s love for beauty and His attention to detail, from the bee itself to the hive to how it all works together.
Bees are brilliant mathematicians. Have you ever noticed how honeycombs are perfect hexagons? They make those! Their angles are perfect and simply mesmerizing. When the artist was doing the outlines for my tattoo, he said he was starting to go cross-eyed a few times from all the hexagons, but bees somehow manage to take care of all of it and not get the slightest bit confused. The hexagon shape helps the hive store the most amount of honey possible. The bees work together and get the job done…tons and tons of work. They all know what they need to do and they do it, efficiently.
God already had a plan for honey bees from the beginning and literally designed them to fulfill it. He knew they would be useful in having a major role in basically all parts of life in some way, so He made worker bee legs with combs and a pollen basket. As the bees perform their main job, collecting nectar, pollen sticks to their legs. I’d imagine pollen might get a little itchy after a while, even for bee legs, so they brush the pollen into the pollen baskets as they groom themselves to clean their legs. They carry this pollen to other areas and from flower to flower so the flowers are fertilized and can continue to grow and flourish and reproduce and spread.
God equipped them for the purpose they were meant and, just the same, He equips us for the purpose we are meant to serve. His hand is in all those little details.
It reminds me of Matthew 6:30 which says, “If God so clothe the grass of the field…shall he not much more clothe you?” If God took so much time creating bees with such detail, how much more amazing did he make you and me! That should make you realize that you are very special, important, loved. Don’t ever discount yourself.
God made you incredibly special and beautiful.
Worker honey bees are servants. Be like a worker bee! This little insect does a huge service to the entire world in its short 6 weeks or so of life. It builds hives, forages, makes food, seals that food (it sort of reminds me of canning food), and its main purpose is to serve the Queen Bee. The bees of the hive make sure the Queen Bee remains the same temperature at all times and is always comfortable and taken care of (wouldn’t that be nice, ladies?).
All bees are mission-essential (that’s a term I get from the military…my husband’s job is “mission-essential” which means without his seemingly menial job, they could not function properly). They each have an important task they must fill. If they don’t show up to the job, things won’t get accomplished as they should.
Bees are a great example of what we are called to do in our life. We are to serve God and serve others. Spread joy and kindness and make sure that what we are doing is pleasing to God.
We are mission-essential to God. We are called to take care of the earth He has given us, to subdue it and make sure it continues to be a flourishing place to provide for generations to come. It’s so easy to brush off being eco-friendly as a “tree hugger” thing, but this is actually our duty as a “worker bee” for God, as we have been called to take care of the earth–the plants, the wildlife, THE BEES!
I’ll say it again…save the bees!
God equipped His worker bees to pollinate. We are like bees; God has equipped us for Life’s tasks. Take what you are equipped with and spread it. Share that joy. Share that love. Share that kindness. Spread it like pollen to the people you encounter. Carry it with you and sprinkle a little everywhere you go.
One bee alone can pollinate several thousand flowers a day! As individuals, it’s easy to think things we do won’t make much of an impact, but one person can make a positive impact on several thousand people, spreading love and joy and kindness everywhere they go (especially in the days of the Internet and social media).
—Remember too, this goes both ways, so you can also spread hate and negativity and selfishness, so really think about what you are pollinating the world with…this is something I struggle with myself, thus the tattoo is a very obvious visual reminder when I am tempted to be a crabapple.
If you and I and several thousands of others individually make it a point to pollinate the world with love and kindness and smiles and joy, imagine the impact we could have! Let’s work on that together, okay? Let’s make this world bloom into a more beautiful place. Let’s start a Domino effect (but let’s call it a “wildflower” effect, for the sake of staying honey bee-related).
For us Christians, this goes even further. We carry God’s Word with us. We have the Gospel, the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ…life eternal. We are to spread the love of God and the news of LIFE through Him to others, just as bees use pollination to spread life in plants.
Have you seen the meaning of our wedding band tattoos?
My Christmas gift from my husband. He knew I had been wanting ring tattoos for a while since he has to take off his rings a lot for work and such so he set it up and let me come up with the design. We love music so I did a staff band. He is bass clef and I am treble. The notes are "D's" for Darby (our last name) and there are two connected because there are two of us and we are connected as one. The fermata is to show that our love will go as long as the Director (God) chooses to keep us on Earth and the crescendo is to remind us that our love should continue to grow. #love #ringtattoo #music
“For when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10b ESV). We often explain this as gold, the metal, that has gone through a very heated, difficult, refining purification process. But can you think of something else golden that might also work? Right. Honey!
The process of creating honey is interesting. Bees head out away from their safe hives and visit loads and loads of flowers collecting nectar (which is essentially just sugar water). When they get home, you’d think they’d kick up their 6 feet and relax after a hard day’s work, but they keep on working. In fact, honey bees never “really” sleep.
They chew up the collected nectar and spit it into the honeycomb containers they built. Yep, honey is bee spit if you didn’t realize that. Erm…kinda gross, right?
At this point, it’s wet and thin compared to the honey we are familiar with and have come to enjoy. It’s sort of like…unrefined gold. The bees add in an enzyme called invertase and fan the liquid with their wings. They keep fanning until the liquid dehydrates and thickens into honey. At this point, the honey has so little water left in it that it prevents bacteria and fungi from growing which gives it the ability to last, well, forever.
They cap off the honeycombs with wax to further seal it and prevent moisture from entering and undoing what was accomplished during the drying process.
Honey is sweet. It’s reliable. It doesn’t go bad.
Think about how honey is often referenced in the Bible. We see many times that God promises to give His people a land flowing in milk and honey. It’s a reminder of God’s provision; God will bless us overly and abundantly; God’s love is sweet; those pesky trials in life yield amazing blessings; God’s love never fails, never gets old, never expires–just like honey.
PS, have you ever stopped to really think about the fact that if the land was flowing in milk and honey it probably was also filled with amazing amounts of vegetation? Where there are bees, there are plants! If there’s that much honey and it takes nectar from about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey, you can just imagine how plenteous the vegetation was to feed those people. I’m talking fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants, beautiful flowers to lift spirits…everything. God’s provision is overflowing.
Print my Honey Bee Hive Mandala Coloring Page!
Please note that my coloring page design is for personal use only and my coloring page and tattoo design may not be duplicated for any reason, including for a tattoo–though original/custom “inspired-by” designs are a-okay!
Pssst…I’m working on some merchandise with this page (including full-color designs) and may also offer a version of my tattoo as a coloring page! If you’re interested in these, let me know in the comments.
Another great reminder my tattoo poses for me, in a visual manner, is to watch the things that come from my mouth. Sometimes I say things I shouldn’t in the heat of the moment, in frustration, in being overwhelmed with the commotion around me, simply because I’m in a bad mood (maybe I didn’t sleep well or it’s near a full moon when we all go a little…crazy.). Don’t we all have some of those days?
Sometimes the words that come out of my mouth are just negative and deconstructive. I’ve been working on this, but I need reminders to make sure the words I say, what I spread to others, is going to be something that will spread love and kindness. I have the visual reminder of a verse I’ve worked to memorize and hide in my heart, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24 ESV).
Hey, isn’t it cool that the Bible mentions “health to the body” when talking about the honeycomb? Remember how I mentioned there are tons of medicinal uses for honey and honeycombs? And we know from studies that kind words and positive attitudes can literally change your brain for the better and improve your health. It all works together so seamlessly!
I think a big part of this is really pointing to mental health. Hurtful words can really make mental health go downhill causing depression and anxiety and hatefulness, but sweet words can build that person back up, bring them to health, make them realize they are loved and that there is a purpose for them, and this spreads!
We need to make a conscious choice to choose words of kindness and love, words that will be sweet and bring happiness and healing and wellness.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
Have you ever noticed that bees tend to sting when you are in “their” territory? You invade their space, so they sting you.
Sometimes we will find ourselves in places where God might say, “Hey, this isn’t where I want you. This isn’t what I have for you.” Maybe we are in a place that is dangerous and He’s protecting us. Maybe it’s a place that will tempt us and He doesn’t want us tempted. Maybe God just has a better place where we will receive more blessings. Maybe God does want us there, but we were a little bit too early and God hasn’t sprayed the magical calming fog yet to make sure the area was ready for us.
Sometimes God allows the “bees” of life to make a buzz around us as a warning. Sometimes we ignore the buzz and stay there anyway, so God allows us to get a little sting to get us moving (like when you pinch yourself to prove something is real…that “I know this is God” kinda sting).
Sometimes we still ignore, so God allows that sting to have an allergic reaction so we have to move out of that place to seek care elsewhere. Sometimes if we stay in that same place when He’s shown us to leave and we ignored all the warnings, we will be faced with a whole swarm of trials we could have avoided had we only listened the first time–it’s a natural consequence to our actions.
Adversely, maybe God wants you to go into that scary place to cultivate his sweet love. If He does, He will equip us with the tools we need to accomplish His goals, just like beekeepers have for accessing honey.
Go where God wants you. Listen to Him. Don’t make Him send a swarm to chase you out of the place in your life that you don’t want to leave, and don’t let fear get the better of you and miss out on His sweet rewards.
If you look closely at my tattoo, you may notice there are some small flaws. If you know me well, you know I am a perfectionist and really struggle with flaws. I’m a bit too heavy on personal “constructive criticism” and sometimes I need to be reminded that imperfection is okay.
There are small flaws in the design, in the colors, and I even chose a somewhat “out-of-the-lines” watercolor style and let the artist have fun filling in the colors so I was not completely in control of it all.
Actually, one of the reasons I really wanted a tattoo in this location was that my skin has some flaws that are slightly embarrassing to me. They are worse on this arm than the other. You see, my skin loses color in some spots, mostly on my shoulder areas.
I’d stare at it in the mirror understanding there really wasn’t much I could do about it. My skin was flawed. I hated it. But with the proper attitude, our flaws can be beautiful! The design I chose incorporates the flaws in my skin as if it was part of the art. Some days it is more noticeable than others, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.
As I mentioned above, I let the artist choose how he wanted to color the design. The actual design is one that I did myself. If you’re familiar with my site, you know that I create coloring pages and even have a coloring book on Amazon. To remind myself of my God-given talents, this time in my life, and how unique I am, I created this design specifically as a coloring page for someone else to fill.
I may not always be in control of situations. Things may not always end up perfect to my standards. But these flaws are still beautiful and shape who God made me to be.
I hope this bee tattoo and the story and meaning surrounding it have been encouraging and challenging to you! If you’ve been blessed by it, I’d love for you to share with your friends and family and/or share your story with me in the comments!
Sources used for educational purposes:
-Honey Bee classes at a local bee farm
-”Defensive Behavior: Alarm Pheromones” from NCBI Neurobiology of Chemical Communication
-”The Environmentalist: The coolest things bees do for the planet and humans” from Greenpeace
-”The Anatomy of Bees” from PerfectBee
-”How Do Bees Make Honey? (It’s Not Just Bee Barf)” from NC State University
-”A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WORKER BEE” from Barkman Honey
-“Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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