Friday, 25 June 2010

Go to the ant...

Have you ever noticed that just as the trials and tribulations of one season are behind us, fresh ones belonging to the new season suddenly appear?! Here in Canada this means that, just as winter’s harshness is being forgotten, the pleasant summer air becomes filled with the buzz of stinging insects, and the lush new growth of grass with biting red ants! In our garden anyway…

Well, those blasted ants reminded me today of something that happened to me when I had known my now-husband Jeremy for a few months and we were co-leading a team of young people on a two-month trip to South Africa and Namibia. Next to a vlei, in the heady balm of a summer evening in the Cape, we had finally confessed to each other that we were interested in more than just friendship. But the next morning, instead of feeling excited, I found myself overcome with fear about the future, about the potential for 'making a mistake', and about the pain and struggle I knew marriage would inevitably bring. (The romance of this story just took a nosedive, didn’t it?!) As I sat outside thinking and praying about this, my eye was caught by two tiny ants on the African earth, trying to move something many times their size. I watched them for what seemed like hours as they persevered in their task together, pushing and tugging to get their prize over obstacles and out of the dips into which they often fell. A number of times the wind would blow one of the ants away, but the remaining ant would struggle on alone, still committed to the task, until – when I had begun to think the second ant would never return – it would suddenly reappear and carry on exactly where it left off. At other times, the pair got truly stuck in some crevice far too deep for them, but incredibly they never gave up. A few times they were joined by a third ant, who would help them just until they were unstuck, and then go on its way.

As I watched, this ‘ant’s tale’ became a parable, a lesson, and a promise for me. I received it as a promise that, yes, there would be struggle and hard work, but that this did not mean the task would ever need to be abandoned. I saw it almost as a preview of what Jeremy and I would experience if we chose to spend our lives together: that sometimes it would feel as if one of us was abandoned and struggling on alone; that at others the task would seem impossible; but that we would in fact never be deserted or alone, and so the task was achievable. And I took it, too, both as a promise that the help we needed would always be there at just the right time, and also as a lesson to look for, expect, and ask for that help – from God and from others. Of course, to give a balanced perspective on marriage – and to better reflect what has been my experience – it would have been nice if those ants had frolicked blithely in a grassy meadow for a while; or casually tossed the object they were carrying back and forth to each other like a beach ball; or put it down and used it as a table to chat and eat around with their beloved, tiny ant-children! But ants only do those things when they’re not being watched, so I suppose this was exactly the experience I needed at the time to give me the courage to take the plunge into the unknown. It also became for me a picture that has helped me to re-envision myself, Jeremy, marriage, and the role of others in our lives, in a way that has been extremely valuable over the years. The famous proverb tells us sluggards (there’s that darned sloth again!) to go to the ant and consider her ways – her diligence and foresight, perseverance and discipline – and be wise. Because in every significant relationship or endeavour there are seasons of hard work, and then seasons to enjoy the fruit of our labour; there are winter seasons and there are summer ones. Though, even in the summer seasons, you just can’t avoid those flaming ants!


  1. thou art not a sluggard dear one! and I LOVE the metaphor, and that you do frolic in the grassy meadow, toss the beach ball and eat around the table with your tiny ant daughter :)

  2. Another great metaphor, Rachael! Such a good picture of life ...

  3. Thanks, Heidi! I have definitely journeyed out of my 'sluggardliness' to a good extent, but intend to keep on moving on! (Being non-slothful about working on my sloth!!) Let's all eat together again with our tiny any children soon!

    And YWAM - well, I'm just so honoured that such a big organisation would comment on my humble blog!! ;-) (that is you, Miranda, right?!)