I have written about ants before, but this morning, I'd like to write about the carpenter ant. These are small creatures, but they have such skill at constructing their homes that they have been labeled as "carpenters" simply because of this skill. Actually, these are some of the larger ants we find in the world, not at all like the wee ones which might invade our cupboards in search of a sugar trail. These "little guys" are hard to miss! Their call to fame is that of building their homes not in the dirt, but out of wood. Most scientists will tell you they are referred to as "excavator" ants because of how much they do to "excavate" old fallen trees and such at the base of the forest floor. In reality, these little guys can do as significant damage to your home as they can to the fallen tree. They aren't all that particular about the wood they choose to "excavate"! Scripture tells us to "learn by watching the ants" simply because their are some predominately "well-organized" teamwork and a pretty significant "volume" of work these little guys are able to accomplish. If we consider for just a moment how this teamwork allows them to prosper and multiply, we might just have learned the first lesson God intended - we need each other!
You lazy people can learn by watching an anthill. Ants don’t have leaders, but they store up food during harvest season. (Proverbs 6:6-8 CEV)
On this earth four things are small but very wise: Ants, who seem to be feeble, but store up food all summer long... (Proverbs 30:24-25 CEV)
These are rather large ants, sometimes measuring as big as 1/2 inch long. Even the smaller ants in this colony are "large" compared to other types of ants. Their size might just give them a special "talent" other ants don't possess, but it also makes them more "recognizable". It is hard to miss them and especially when there is a large colony of them. God's people are kind of like that - even the "smallest" worker in the "colony" being hard to miss simply because of the evidence of Jesus in their lives (the real thing which gives us our prominence in life).
Two types of worker ants actually are "sterile" - they don't reproduce, but they serve a very specific role in the colony. They are referred to as major and minor workers. The major workers actually defend the nest and spend their time on the lookout for food they can return to the nest. The minor workers are busy most of the time with the care of the young. They are the "nanny" ants, so to speak. Their role is to nurture the life of the wee ones in the nest. Another reason why God may have asked us to learn from the ants - we all have roles, none more significant than the other, but all specifically designed to maintain the "nest" and ensure "life" is brought forth for future generations.
They prefer moist wood - maybe because it easier to excavate. This is probably why they like the fallen wood - it is already a little decaying and easier to sink their "teeth" into. It is this higher "water content" of the wood which actually brings the ants into the wood. This wood "home" provides the perfect shelter for the laying of their eggs. As the colony grows in size, the wood structure is carved out more and more to make room for the expanse of the colony. As we stop for a moment to consider this characteristic of the carpenter ant, we might find God is nudging us to be sure we have a place of shelter for the young about to be hatched. The exact building is not the church - it is the place wherein the young may be born and nurtured to adulthood - becoming active participants in their "colony" of other believers.
As the young are hatched, the Queen actually feeds the young from her very own mouth. She has partially digested what she gives them - it is sweet and very nourishing to their wee bodies. As they are born, the larvae of the ants lack legs - there is no way for them to forage for food on their own. They need it prepared, delivered, and actually "spoon fed" to them. This is not unlike the newborn Christian - hungry for more and more of the sweetness of God's grace - they yearn for the "spoon feedings" of those who are appointed to care for them as they are nurtured to adulthood.
Something amazing I found out about these ants is their tendency to forage for their food in the night hours. They actually "go on the hunt" at night, using both chemical trails and "night vision" to help them navigate their trails to and from the nest. They use the reflected light of the moon to actually orient themselves to their environment. God doesn't ask us to take light into the light. He asks us to take light into the darkness. He doesn't leave us out their on our own, but reflects the light of his amazing glory for us to see the trail to the exact source he designed for us to follow.
The carpenter ant - consider him well. He isn't alone in this world. He is continually about the task of bringing new growth about. His work is never done. He is faithful to do what he is designed to do. His place of growth is in the nest, not on his own. His "family" is what assures he is well-protected, well-nourished, and well-established in his walk in life. He finds resources in the night hours and is not afraid to be in the darkness, for he knows the potential of further growth as a result. Consider the ants, my friends. Just ponderin!