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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Considering the ants again!

As a small girl, I loved to spend time just watching things in nature - because they offered such great lessons.  Even as a child, I guess I was a little bit of a "deep thinker", spending lazy afternoons lulling about, studying geckos on the wall, watching birds build a nest, or taking in the activity at the anthill.  The gecko amazed me with its ability to scale the walls without even a slight "slip" in its grip.  The birds caught my attention for long period of time as they'd work those tiny beaks and claws around some piece of freshly cut grass and weave it into the form of their nest.  The ants, on the other hand, captured my attention because of their seeming "smallness" which never seemed to slow them down or cause them to abandon a project.  They hauled objects bigger than their own body size, with nothing more than those two little pinchers and a great deal of balance.  Their steady pace was never stopped despite the obstacles presented in their path (I actually tested that one by placing a few of those obstacles strategically in their path).  What they seemed to be doing "above ground" was not fully appreciated until I observed the first "ant farm" I saw in a classroom at my elementary school. Suddenly, all those tiny pieces of grass, sections of leaves and the like made sense.  They had used them to block off portions of their "stash" underground, securing it against water intrusion, or other predators.  The intricacies of their holes were amazingly thought out.  No wonder God tells us to consider the ants!

Go watch the ants, you lazy person.  Watch what they do and be wise. Ants have no commander, no leader or ruler, but they store up food in the summer and gather their supplies at harvest.  How long will you lie there, you lazy person?  When will you get up from sleeping?  You sleep a little; you take a nap. You fold your hands and lie down to rest.  So you will be as poor as if you had been robbed; you will have as little as if you had been held up.  (Proverbs 6:6-11 NCV)

No taskmaster directed the work of those ants.  They worked willingly.  It was their purpose in life to haul those leaves three and four times their body size. The others who pushed the dirt to the surface, clearing tunnel after tunnel were called to their work.  Still others sought out nourishing tidbits to be stored away against future times when food sources would not be as plentiful. They worked as a community - functioning at peak performance because they were fulfilling their calling.  There is much to be said about the attitude of heart by which we complete our calling in life - the fact the ants need no taskmaster to direct their work is one we should not consider lightly.  God asks for willing hearts - content to do what they were created to do - placing their talents at his full disposal.  It is not because we "have" to, but because we "want" to.  

The ants laid up a storehouse for themselves and for those who would be the future members of their colony.  Why?  They were preparing for times of leanness.  Times when plenty would seem evasive.  It goes without saying, but life is filled with both the good and the lean times.  What we do in the good often determines the provision we have for the lean.  I think God was asking for us to consider the ants because they teach us much about our own spiritual growth.  Our spiritual growth is dependent on our preparation.  One of the first things the ants have to do is prepare the soil of their colony - they have to remove the obstacles many times their size and weight.  The tasks of preparation cannot be overlooked - for they actually make the places of birth possible and create avenues for the filling of storehouses.  We'd do well to allow the preparation of the soil in our lives - for without it, paths which need to be cleared will remain blocked and storehouses which need to be built against future days of leanness will be empty of anything to keep us strong.

There was something else I observed while watching those ants "tinker about" on their little hills.  No matter what invaded their "space" was considered something to be dealt with.  In fact, they were constantly revising their hill, keeping it remarkably clear of these things which would happen into their paths.  Leaves would be carried away, opening again the pathways for each worker ant to come and go, bringing find after find back to the colony for others to enjoy.  They didn't go around those obstacles, but they cleared them out of the way.  I think we might also learn the importance of not just leaving an obstacle just because it is there.  Those obstacles would change the course of their journey, if left where they lay.  Many times, what we choose to ignore will change the course of our journey, as well.  We need to consider the obstacle as not only a hindrance, but a course-changer in our lives. Sometimes the subtle changes of course add extra fatigue in our journey!

Last, but definitely not least, the thing which I never really considered until I was a little older was the constant renewal process occurring deep within these colonies.  Thousands of ants would work to remove soil, modify tunnels, take away waste, and push what was no longer useful to the surface.  The constant "turning" of the soil brought a constant renewal to the colony. To the ants, this work was life-sustaining - to us, it can be life-giving.  We sometimes just "deal with" the stuff in our "tunnels" by shutting them off and making "collateral" tunnels.  We create "different" pathways because it becomes too hard to deal with what actually no longer belongs and needs desperately to be removed.  The problem with collateral tunnels - they don't deal with the "trash".  God asks us to consider the ants - not because they are noble little creatures - but because they don't bury their trash - they remove it entirely from their colony!  Maybe we'd do well to consider the "collateral" tunnels we have been building and realize the importance of not just "building around" the trash buried deep, but to actually get it out of the "tunnels" of our lives so we can have free, open passage for the good stuff God wants to fill us with!  Just sayin!