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Jason and the Ant

Jason sat behind the wheel of his black GMC Sierra feeling a sense of disbelief as he monitored the progress of an ant clinging desperately to his windshield. The small insect was being buffeted by the air passing over the window as the large pickup traveled at 45 miles per hour down the straight stretch of country road, yet it had not yet been blown away. The ant had probably fallen off a branch of the crabapple tree that had stretched over the vehicle at the building site he had just visited.

While the ant’s determination to hold on was amazing, Jason was more interested and even perplexed by the fact that its plight had triggered a wave of compassion within himself. It was just an ant, after all, right?

When he had first seen it, his initial reaction was to turn on the wiper blades and knock it off. But he unexpectedly felt sorry for it and thought that the wind would knock it off anyway. But it didn’t. The little ant somehow managed to hang on. When Jason reached a straight stretch where he would normally speed up to fifty or so, he held back surprisingly reluctant to see it go. He had once read about ants, their colonies and habits, and remembered that if an ant somehow wandered or was placed in another colony’s territory, the offending ant would be quickly and ruthlessly dispatched by “guards” of the rival ant colony. So even if he didn’t smash it with the windshield, the little ant was doomed anyway should it blow away and land intact anywhere but its own home.Ant

Jason couldn’t believe he was feeling this way… about an insect. But a still, small voice seemed to speak in his mind, “But what about Randy?”

Randy… an hourly employee that worked for Jason on a lot of his new buildings. Jason rarely got to know his employees very well. In fact, Randy had been with his construction firm for months, yet Jason knew almost nothing about him, except where he lived… sort of. He knew he lived in a run-down house outside of town but either had never seen his house, or had not realized it was Randy’s at the time.

Actually, Jason knew that his employees generally viewed him as something of a snob and maybe even a jerk, but it didn’t bother him much. It was his company after all, and he said what he wanted the way he wanted, not much caring about the pressure he put on his workers or their families’ lives. Jason suddenly realized that he viewed his employees more-or-less as disinterestedly as he normally viewed the insects on the ground.

Jason was abruptly aware of the glaring contradiction in his life. Jason professed to be a Christian. He was (usually) a faithful attender, a tither, and even served as a leader on committees in the church. Yet, there was an appalling lack of compassion and even of interest in other people… especially if those people were somehow “beneath him”.

He absentmindedly followed the road, his eyes glazing over for a moment as all these thoughts ran through his mind. He focused his vision back on the windshield and saw that the ant had finally blown off… beyond recall. And he thought about employees who had come and gone through his life, neighbors he had had, and business associates with whom he no longer had reason to remain in contact. Did he know where they stood with God? Could he say that he had ever thought about them as anything other than a means to an end for his business and himself? Had he ever really thought about their lives, their pain, or their need for the hope that he publicly professed to possess? Not really. And so many were gone, blown out of his life by the winds of change… beyond recall, never once hearing from Jason the news that God loved them enough to send His Son to die for them.

Jason suddenly pulled off to the side of the road. It was the strangest thing, and he could hardly believe it about himself, but he began to weep. There was a terrible brokenness in his heart and life… a weight of regret and shame, all because of a single ant struggling to cling to life on the face of his windshield.

“Lord,” he prayed. “I confess to You that I’ve been proud and calloused. I’ve been selfish and… stupid. If anyone has a right to look upon another as just a bug, it would be You looking at me. I mean, You are God! But You loved me and Your Son died for me.”

A car drove past but Jason ignored it. “Please forgive me for… my pride… and the fact that I didn’t share eternal life with people.” Grief flooded over him as he uttered this. The thought became almost unbearable that he had had chances to share the message of God’s love with people and opportunities to, in a sense, help spiritually save lives. He didn’t even notice that the car that had passed by, an old run down, Chevy sedan, had stopped, pulling a few yards in front of his truck.

The still, small voice seemed to speak again… “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).

There was a tapping at the window and Jason looked up. It was Randy. His weathered face, so baked by exposure to the sun, made him look far older than thirty. Jason turned away, wiped his eyes, and looked back again, rolling his window down.

“I was headin’ over to the other site and I seen you sittin’ here. Is something wrong?” Randy asked, his eyes showing that he was both puzzled and concerned by finding Jason this way.

Jason almost laughed. How do you tell someone that you were crying over an ant? “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think so… at least not now.” He looked at Randy hard.

“Randy, why don’t we go ahead and take lunch right now. You and I can go over to Bob’s; I’ll buy,” he said. Surprise washed over Randy’s face and he paused a brief moment.

“Uh… sure!” he said. “You’re the boss.” Randy headed back to his car, got in, and pulled out.

Jason followed and smiled. “I don’t have to tell him the part about the ant, do I, Lord?” he prayed aloud. “The main thing is that I start treating him like he’s something more than a bug; he’s a man… a brother-to-be and Jesus died for him. But if You’ll open the door, God, I’ll sure tell him about Your Son.”

And he did.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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One summer, when we had planted a larger garden than we did this year, our family began to notice a strange phenomenon taking place among our tomato plants. They had grown tall, lush, and fruitful with clumps of both orange from their ripening fruits as well as yellow blossoms, like golden stars, decorating their vines. But suddenly we began to notice that leaves at the very tops were being inexplicably shaved from the plants.

If this had taken place when the plants were still young and small or if it were happening only near the bottom of the plant, we might have supposed that yard critters, such as rabbits, had managed to find ways into the cages and were enjoying the fine cuisine. But the leaves being sheared off were nearly six feet off the ground. We ruled birds out for various reasons and finally concluded that it had to be an insect of some kind.

We looked and looked, searched and searched through the tomato vines, but could not find anything suspicious. So we determined to just keep our eyes opened, waiting to catch whatever naughty little culprit was responsible. In the meantime, we continued to find every morning that a few more leaves had been clipped from our tomato plants.

CatepillarBut then one evening, we saw hanging as placidly as the leaves about it, an enormous green caterpillar. Our children, on a recommendation from their mother, consulted a book on North American wildlife (handy for these impromptu learning opportunities). They concluded that it was either a Luna Moth or a Cecropia Moth. While the caterpillar in question was far too swollen for us to be sure exactly which kind it was, we had several weeks prior discovered a beautiful Luna Moth (a kind of Giant Silk Moth) which we had scrutinized until it decided that it no longer liked being scrutinized and so flew up and over the house to unknown destinations.

We gazed for a moment admiringly at its swollen progeny, but then, in the end concluded that this caterpillar needed to make its happy home some place other than our tomato plants. We consequently removed it to a new location (far from the tomato plants) and have had no further grazing problems.

The whole little episode with the tomatoes and the caterpillar, was more than a bit reminiscent of Eric Carle’s children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but also served as a catalyst (or should I say, “caterpillaryst?”) in my mind for thoughts regarding a spiritually rewarding life.

Keep in mind that the great goal in the Christian life is true knowledge of God. Not merely knowing “about” Him, but knowing Him – intimately and profoundly! The Scriptures assume this and present this theme repeatedly from what is called the great “Shema” (in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) to the declaration of the two “greatest commandments” by Jesus to crowds who were lost and straying, eager to hear this special message from a God Whom they perhaps believed was as far off as the unreachable stars (see Matthew 22:37-38, Mark 12:29-31, and Luke 10:27-28).

If such true knowledge of God is the theme of the Christian life (and if you’re still in doubt about this then read Jesus’ prayer in John 17, especially verses 2 and 3), we must then recognize that there are as many “caterpillars” in the gardens of our souls as there are among the gardens in which we grow our flowers and vegetables.

Little attitudes subtly nibble away at our spiritual stature, shearing from us our capacity to be nourished with the simple and yet incredible love of our Father in heaven. We most likely don’t consider such attitudes to be capable of such harm, believing them to be harmless enough, but little prejudices, resentments, envies, and worries have power to climb through the vine of fellowship that binds us to Jesus and shear from us attitudes of joy, contentment, thankfulness, and peace. And when these fruits begin to fail to materialize in our relationship with God, our growth becomes stunted. We at best are slow and meager in our harvest of glory for Him through our lives. But too often we stop growing altogether and become susceptible to various kinds of spiritual blight that will try to choke out all remnants of His love within us.

Our challenge is therefore simple. As in the case of our little garden, we learn to look for little things that slowly eat at us. Not only that, but as we prayerfully meditate in His Word, the Bible, we learn what we’re looking for.

Such “caterpillars” range from greed to lust and from pride to fear. Allowing these persistently parasitic attitudes the freedom to linger in your life, will most assuredly render you incapable of true and unfettered fellowship with God. Not only that, it also makes fellowship with other believers impossible. These “caterpillars” have a way of wandering from our own leaves onto the leaves of others. Those who become thoroughly “eaten up” become hazardous to the church. Things can become so bad that they require radical intervention such as is employed in 1 Corinthians 6 when Paul addresses this kind of issue in the church in Corinth.

“…Now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one” (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV).

Given the stakes involved, be sure to make it your habit to sit prayerfully in the Lord’s presence (in a personal time of prayer and reading His Word), and allow God to help you remove the “caterpillars” that may be at work in your heart and mind. Let Him move them far from you so that your spiritual life might become lush and fruitful, bearing a lovely harvest of spiritual fruits in your relationship with God.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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