January 2, 2013
“The Benediction Project”
There is an image I have had in my mind for many years, and I am glad for it. I picked up the idea somewhere along the journey of life, and it helps me greatly to see the big picture—the overall purpose of life on earth. I share it here because you, like me, may find it a powerful image to guide your days here on this planet, and to help you help someone else grasp the big picture.
Imagine that you are sitting outside on a rock, a hill or a chair, and you look down and notice a column of ants marching in single file, each carrying something to a hole in the ground where they disappear. Coming out of the same hole is another column of ants marching alongside of the first, but heading in the opposite direction, probably to the same food source.
The ants seem to be doing their work well, as their ancestors have been doing since the beginning of ant-life on earth. They eat, work, reproduce, sleep and occasionally repair or move their nest. Then they die. The seemingly-forever nature of this cycle of ant-life is, above all, to ensure the perpetuation of the species. The ants, of course, are not aware of this cycle of life; the instinct to carry on as the do is programmed in them from before birth. They never stand back and consider the big picture of their lives; they just do as their ancestors have done for ages.
These columns of ants remind me of the many people on earth who simply move through life from birth to death without stopping to give serious thought to why they are doing what they are doing—the overall purpose of their lives. They simply follow the line of ants in front of them, doing what the other ants are doing. And then they die.
There are many others, of course, who have considered such matters. They may have even accepted some big ideas about God and life after death. They now, however, either dismiss such notions as false or live as though their religious beliefs have little or nothing to do with their daily living.
There are still others who have thought—or been told—about the ultimate questions and have adopted or been indoctrinated into a set of religious ideas and practices that govern their lives in major ways. Of this group, some are living (often sincerely) according to unbiblical religious systems while others are living, or trying to live, according to the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
All of these groups and categories need the grace of God through Christ and the Spirit. I am thinking, however, especially of those who know and accept something of the life and teachings of Jesus and his early followers. They may think of themselves as Christians, or even as faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus, and maybe they are. There are, praise God, many such in this world. They know that they, and all people, have been created in the image and likeness of God to be his representatives on earth, to reveal his mind and will to those living in ignorance of the truth.
Yet there are also many who call themselves Christians but live like ants. Of course, as humans, they have self-awareness, the ability to reason and the power of the will. These capacities obviously set them far above all animals. But as I observe them living they seem much the same as ants. They are not all marching in a fixed line, true, but their pattern of life appears to follow the customs, ideas and values of those around them.
They are heavily influenced by contemporary culture and majority opinions, and, except perhaps for attending church, they are driven by an established blend of worldly, materialistic goals and practices which they gradually have absorbed from others.
I am not making up this scenario. I wish I were. I have seen it. Children who grow up under the care of such ant-Christians often turn out to be the same as their parents or guardians. Fortunately and surprisingly, other such children recognize the shallowness and emptiness of the ant-life, and by God’s grace early in life, grow toward the way of the cross.
These may even notice their parents beginning to live lives that are less and less self-centered and more and more God-centered. Such youth may not even realize that they are being used by the Lord to show their earth-focused parents a heavenly view of the big picture, just as God in the heavens may show his angels a view of all living things on earth, including human beings and ants.
The ants and the other creatures are doing what they are meant to do, but we human beings often are not. In this new year, on this pilgrimage called life, let us resolve to regularly lift our heads from their horizontal orientation and look up as well as out. Let us be willing to challenge the status quo, step out of the ant column, and move with the assurance and joy that God gives to those who think and live in harmony with the big picture designed by God almighty for those made in his image and likeness.