This is a photograph of a bee enjoying some bee balm. That's the "folk" name of this flowering plant, which is more formally called "monarda," a considerably less lovely name than "bee balm." It's easy to understand why it's called "bee balm," because if you grow it, you will find bees all over it every time you look.  

I suppose many of us also have some kind of "people balm" we flock to - or at least we would like to flock to - for sustenance and, well, balm. A balm is something that soothes and restores. Jeremiah laments, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?" And the beautiful spiritual replies, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."

The hymn goes on: "Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again."

What I like about the word "balm" is that it is a physical thing, medically speaking. I like the idea of something physical happening that revives the soul. Listening to music, reading, being in conversation with someone can be a balm. So can eating and drinking with a friend or lover, or walking, or looking at a particular view, or smelling particular fragrances. For me, walking beside the ocean is pretty high on my list of restorative activities. Sometimes a good soak in the tub with a good book is just the thing. Or the scent of old fashioned roses. Or a hug. Sometimes it's receiving bread and wine at the altar.

But, like the song says, there's more to that balm than whatever the "thing" is that soothes. The infusion of the Spirit provides the real healing to my soul. To be touched by someone in love, knowing that God is the author and center of love. Being in nature while at the same time knowing (and marveling all over again) that it is God who has provided this beauty, God that powers the wind and created the colors and gives life to the plants and animals and to me - that is how the healing works.  To use Biblical terms, healing comes through the interaction of flesh and spirit. Not one or the other but both together.

What serves as a balm for your soul?


Ray Barnes said…
For me, all of the things you listed and in addition, the sad plaintive song of an Autumn robin. The joyful noisy song of a Spring blackbird "I'm up, it's a lovely morning, time you were up too".
The special echoing hush of St Mary's early, before anyone else is in, and the feeling of calm an peace that gives me.
A sweet smile and a tiny thankyou from someone to whom I've given just ordinary basic courtesy even maybe just pointing out a direction for them.
The sound of church bells as I approach the church on Sunday morning.
All the little things in God's lovely world.
Thank you, Ray, for your list. I like the church bells addition particularly! I don't often hear them...