Teachings from the Tiny

We were hiking one day in the forest, and came across a huge tree that had fallen across the trail.  No problem:  the Forest Service kept the trail well maintained, and the log was cut through, the section blocking the pathway removed, leaving the trail flanked by 2 huge logs nearly 4 feet in diameter.

We often stop at such logs to estimate the number of rings and guess the age of the fallen tree.  So we paused here, to rest and count.

Something moved on the smooth face of the cut log.  There was a hole near the top, with a tiny black ant poised at the opening.  We watched him.  He appeared to drop something and retreat back.  As the first ant retreated, a second ant appeared and did the same:  drop something.  We inspected more closely. The hole was tiny:  about 2 ants wide. There was a seemingly endless stream of ants coming forward single file in the hole, each holding a speck of sawdust, carrying it to the edge of the “precipice” and hurling it over the side.  Then each little guy turned and went back inside, making room for his coworker to dispose of the bit that he had chewed out of the solid wood.  One ant after another, intent on the task.

A small mound, perhaps 4 inches high, of soft sawdust particles was forming directly below.  Those ants were aiming to hollow out the tree, bit by bit.

Grain by grain, they each did what they were needed to do, undaunted by the scale of it all, steadily, with patience and diligence.  Presumably without complaining.  Given the size of the log, this was going to take thousands, if not a million, of ant generations.  The ants we were watching were certainly not going to see this project through. They didn’t know the master plan, or the goal, they just did what needed to be done, what they were called to do.

Last month, we were again hiking, in another forest, and we saw this log:




Not as big as the first log, but this one was “finished” (from an ant perspective.) It was completely hollowed out.  All full-size tree-length of it, right through to the other side. Other ant teams, long gone from this world, had spent hundreds, or maybe thousands, of years on this project, and they had done it effectively and well.  Bit by bit.

I think we Christians can learn something from those diligent ants. I know that I certainly can, and did.  We have no idea of God’s plan, of how He will build His Kingdom and return in glory.  We don’t know the when or the how or the where–only the Who.  We don’t need to know the rest.  We only know that we need to do our part, our own small bit that only we can do and to do it faithfully and well,  to persevere with love and faith to the best of our ability and capacity.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
Mother Teresa


About reinkat

I am an iconographer, and have been studying Russian/Greek icons since 1995. I'm married with 3 children. I love hiking, camping, animals, my family and church--and icons.
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7 Responses to Teachings from the Tiny

  1. Reinkat I loved this! Nature is so wondrous and can teach us so much. What a beautiful analogy you have drawn here. God Bless!

  2. I learn something from all of your posts. Keep up the good work in the vineyard!

  3. SR says:

    Trying to catch up on comments today! I loved this post. You know God did not just give us nature to look at. In fact Mother Angelica said, “When sin prevails nature rebels.” So I believe God uses it for many things. One to get our attention.

    He also created it for us to learn from. To see His beauty. To look at the creatures in it, and see what they do on pure instinct alone. (Though I believe some also have reason.) Ant’s are some of the most diligent creatures there is, and they never cease to work. They work for the things which will sustain them in life. We as humans need to be that diligent in working on our relationship with our Lord, as that is what is going to sustain us. Loved reading and the pictures. God Bless, SR

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