Rockstars, Bishops, and One Stubborn Ant
Below is my own favorite images from Photos – Södertälje Party (2). It’s the lead singer from Nordman, Håkan Hemlin. The “moment” is caught, I think, that represent this performer the best (as I see him, anyway). I had a nice chat with Håkan after the show, in which he told me that he had just bought a new camera, an Canon 400D, and that he was having a lot of fun with it. But he explained that he feels stupid sometimes, because he take pictures of everything he sees. Said he: “It’s embarrassing leaning all over an ant hill with a camera when all these people are passing by you, wondering if you’re crazy.”
When he said that I laughed so hard. I explained that’s exactly what I was doing two days earlier. I was encircling the ant hill outside our house. (We actually got two of them right on our front side. I call them the Two Towers. Between them is a broad and very busy ant freeway). In this photo I was sticking my head in ant hill nr 1. It looked like I was just in time for dinner.
These other photos are taken from the “freeway”. I was lying on the ground, with ants crawling all over me, one of them biting my arm. I was fascinated by this one who was carrying a heavy luggage, several times his own weight.
It reminded my of a spiritual experience I had with an ant (yes, if you can image that) back in May, 2002. It was when I had just been called to be the Bishop of our congregation in Södertälje. I remember going out in the beautiful forest nearby, so I could be alone with my thought. I felt so small. I think you understand the feeling; you get a calling or assignment that seems too big for you to fill; that it could be done so much better by someone else; you maybe even feel unworthy. So what do you do? You pray, of course. That’s what I did – like never before. Some of the things that followed are too personal to mention here, but this much I can say, as I often try to do, that God answers prayer. He really does. The joy and comfort and peace that filled me that day made a remarkable impact on my soul.
When I turned back for home, I thought I had received more spiritual food than I could eat that day, but… another experience awaited. It was a special encounter with an ant. After walking a few minutes on a small path I see a little stick moving on the ground. It seemed to move around by its own force, but when I crept closer I saw there was an ant clinging on to the bottom of it. Of course, I knew of the incredible strength of ants, but I still couldn’t restrain my admiration. (The stick was much bigger than birch tree “seed” in these photos.)
For some reason I had the feeling I should stay around a watch this ant in action. So I did. And what became clear to me was that I had met the most determined, stubburn ant in the whole forest, I was sure of it. He took the stick up a steep hill. That in itself amazed me. But then he came to a huge root blocking the path. I though, okay, he’s got three options: Go over it (but that seemed impossible), go a long uncertain way around it, or give up and leave the stick. Guess which he chose? You bet, he was setting himself up for the impossible: he was on a straight path, and root or no root, nothing was going to stop him! So he sets off, or rather – up. The first try he failed… and the second. But now I’m getting in to this. I kneel down in the dirt, getting as close to him as I can, trying to get his attention. Kind of like this close.
I said to him: “Now you listen to me! You can do this, I know you can. Just don’t give up! You know you have it in you. This is what you need to do… what you want to do. Now do it!!! Then I paused. And as silly as this may sound, it hit me that I was living within my very own parable: I was the ant; I was that little guy struggling to pull a heavy load that by all logic was impossible to handle. But those words I just said? Didn’t someone else try to tell my heart those exact words a moment earlier? Yes… yes!
“Okay,” I said, getting seriously caught up in the situation, “I’m here.” With my face back in the dirt I said what I probably never will say to another ant again: “I won’t leave you. I’m right here, helping you through this.” I was so focused, and tears were spilling over because of all the emotions… and I’m laughing at myself, thinking what in the world I would say if someone should see me now.
Then the miracle. The ant, after several failed attempts, gathers his strength and starts to climb – with the stick. And I’m going crazy, cheering him on like he was my favorite Olympic athlete. “Come on! Come on! Up… and up… and uuuuup!
He made it! I was so happy, waiving my arms in the air, doing a silly rain dance. Then I looked down again, wanted to tell the object of my admiration how proud I was over him. But he didn’t wait for me. He was already tugging along. Amazing, I thought.
Looking back at this experience, I realize how easy it would be for me to just have pushed this ant up the root. Yet, although it truly felt we were in this together, it would have been the “wrong” thing to do. This was his moment to prove himself, a test he had to do on his own. But I wanted him know, still, that I was there beside him, all the way.
Sometimes when I wrote I think how silly my words must sound to some folks, but I hope this has made some sense. I guess what I wanted to say is that no matter how small we see ourselves, there is someone out there cheering us on, giving us encouragement, believing in us, never leaving our sight. When I continued walking home I felt all of this combine into a word: love. And not just any love, but the true love of God. Knowing I had felt that love this day (through other experiences also), I knew in my heart that I could do everything and anything he called me to do. And do you know what the beautiful thing is: so can you!
In this post I have used the word “silly” more than once. But today silly was a good word. Because I learned that God can teach us things through the smallest, “silliest” means sometimes. But as for me, I don’t mind. Why? Well… with me God can be as silly as he wants, as long as what he wants reaches my heart. Plus… silly is more fun.
It’s a good life.