Consider the Ants

I spent much of the morning contending with an influx of carpenter ants into our kitchen, so I’ve had a fair amount of time to reflect on this tiny insect.

I’m no entomologist, but I observed several things about the tiny black creatures that kept popping up on the ceiling of my kitchen, one after another.

For instance, ants can fall a tremendous distance and be perfectly okay. Have you ever thought of that? If an ant is about a quarter of an inch long and about eight feet to the ground, that means that it is falling 384 times its body length without any damage to life or (as best I can tell). I’m 6’3”. This would like me falling from the top of two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other, then scurrying away like it was no big deal.

Or, take the incredible strength of the ant’s exoskeleton. Have you ever tried to smash an ant? (I should add that I certainly don’t enjoy causing destruction to ants, just zealous in my attempts to clear them out of my kitchen.) Simply squeezing them in the tissue does not ensure that it is safe to throw them in the trashcan.

Why the thoughts on ants? It’s a little different from my typical musings on theology and attempts to understand and apply Scripture to our lives.

Yet I think that the ants matter.

Photo credit: LadyCat
Photo credit: LadyCat

You see, almost inevitably, when I start to think about the amazing properties of other creatures, I wonder why we are the way we are. Wouldn’t it be great if we had the ability to freefall tremendous distances? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could withstand tremendous amounts of pressure? (It may have changed the trash compactor scene in Star Wars a bit.)

When I think of the ants, I can’t help but be just a little more amazed by God’s creation. The idea that God would spend billions of years watching His creation grow, actively willing the processes of selection, embracing minute changes on the microscopic level to bring about macroscopic species-level change to bring about the diverse array of creatures in the world today is something that defies my understanding. When I stop to consider the ants, I can’t help but be blown away by our creative God.

Why does this matter?

Allow me to offer two reasons.

First, I believe that cultivating a stronger sense of wonder at the diversity and beauty of creation should stir us to a greater desire to protect that creation. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking – I spent the day killing ants, not lovingly moving them to the great outdoors. True. And yet, I did so with a greater sense that what I was eliminating from my kitchen was not just a household pest but part of God’s good creation, a beautiful representative of God’s creativity, a creature who, like me, “waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). What does this eager expectation look like to an ant? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I know that my relationship to the ant should be changed even if only in some small way by my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Second, it matters because I reminded of my own finitude. I don’t have an exoskeleton. I wouldn’t like to fall from the top of one Empire State Building, let alone two. I am finite and that is a good thing. Sometimes Christians talk about how we can’t wait to heaven where we will know everything. Here’s my bold claim for the day: On the day when we enter the final kingdom of Jesus, I hope we don’t know everything. Seriously. I believe that we are meant to be limited. With limitations comes the opportunity for learning, for growth, and for wonder. The chance to go “further up and further in,” to borrow from C.S. Lewis. I hope that somehow eternity allows me to continue to wonder at the diversity of God’s creation, to learn, and to discover the beauty that God has made.

And while I may not want them in my kitchen, I guess that means that I hope there will be ants there too.


2 thoughts on “Consider the Ants

  1. I hope we don’t know everything too. In fact, as strange as this may seem, part of me hopes that I still have cerebral palsy. Simply because I’m curious to see how God would use that in heaven. Besides, there’s not a whole lot of Scripture to support that those of us with disabilities will no longer have them. Jesus is in heaven and he still has scars.

    When I was on Catalina Island doing a manuscript study of the first half of Mark, I started out the week by pointing out everything to the students that they needed to know.

    (I was occupying a very awkward space between being a student and being InterVarsity staff. I was learning the method, but I’ve also taught with the method, and was simply learning some particulars).

    And then I heard: “You need to knock that off. You’re robbing them of the thrill of discovery”. Discovery, wonder, and exploration is one of the joys of being human, and I hope we don’t lose that when we gain our angel wings. (Which we also don’t get, but hey, it made for nice rhetoric.)

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