Sunday, March 26, 2006

Following the Ants

Following the Ants
by Dustin Bagby

I am fascinated by ants. The crazy ant to be more specific. Right now as I write this, our kitchen is being completely overtaken by them. There is much to hate about the ant, but there is also much to be astounded by. Ants tend to be nocturnal, as do I, so I figured I should spend some time watching them and figure out where they’re coming from. Last night I opened my pantry and with a flashlight followed the line of hundreds of worker ants down the pantry, onto the floor and all the way to my laundry room where they were hiding in the wall. Besides being kept up all night thinking they were crawling all over me, I also learned a few things.

This may sound a little strange but I believe the ant has much to teach us about community.

Ants do their research. They know where the food is. The queen will send out a scout who will explore the area and figure out exactly where the food is so the community will be provided for. This is a role that pastors and elders cannot overlook. Not only should a pastor survey the spiritual landscape to lead the community to spiritual nutrition, but also survey the needs in the community at large so he or she can send out the worker ants to where they are needed.

Every ant is a worker ant. The worker ants are the hands and the feet of the queen. Every ant is a “missionary” and is sent into the world for a purpose. Every ant has a role in the community—no ant is left out. The inclusiveness of the colony is unmistakable. There are some special roles like scout and queen, but everyone else is a worker and simply serves their community.

It’s easy to go to a church service every week and have no role in the colony. We are the hands and feet of our King—we need to serve, we need to work; it’s not a negotiable for the ants, neither is it for the church.

Ants are very adaptable to change. If they get moved out of one place, they find another place to live. Ants are willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means living in electrical outlets, appliances, pipes, you name it. The church needs to be flexible, fluid and ready to adapt to every landscape and situation that comes our way, too. Change is inevitable—a church should be organic enough to flow with the changes while being creative to discover ways to thrive in challenging times.

Ants don’t quit or get easily discouraged. Ants don’t give up. When ants build an anthill they are persevering to a fault. You can squash the anthill, and they immediately go back to work as if nothing happened. As comedian Brian Regan says, “You would think that they would take at least a second to look at what happened and go ‘OH MAN!’”

I find myself so easily discouraged with the church sometimes. Every once in a while for good reason, other times because I’m being completely immature. It may be through an article I read or lackluster weekend-messages, but I can often get discouraged about my current church situation. But I’ve realized I have to find a way to brush it off; I need to focus on what’s really important. I need to focus on the mission—what’s really important—not just food for the colony, but Jesus for the world.

You can’t stop ants. The most dangerous thing about the ant: It is near impossible to get rid of them. Ants are like a virus—they just keep popping up all over. It’s like they’ve been given a mandate that nothing will ever prevail against them.

When someone attempts to harm the ants that are currently out in the field the remaining 95% of the workers will become stressed and split into two or more new colonies. Now both the colonies will continue to work and grow and become twice as large as before. In times of persecution ants grow even stronger.

Why can’t they be stopped? They stick together. If they would spread out and go it alone, they would surely die; but they don’t. Besides the scouts who survey the landscape with a few others, no one leaves the community to try to survive alone. They know that to do so would be certain death.

Maybe God created ants not only to irritate us and ruin our food, but so we could learn a few things about living together.

So thank you crazy ants for all that you teach us about community.

2 comments:

MOM said...

AMEN - Everything has a purpose, even annoying ants !

Iz said...

And how appropriate today...as I try to find a way to not be discouraged... the hill is being stepped on and I'm going "Oh, Man!" instead of rebuilding and just working for my King. Thanks, Bethany!

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