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.

13 replies »

  1. Å, tack… Just en sådan historia jag behöver ibland… Fantastisk. Tack och tack igen! Varför skriver du inte böcker?
    Hoppas livet är väl med dig//Maria

  2. Monica, you should have a blog! There are always people out there who are interested in hearing what you have to say, reading about your experiences. This one we’re on,, seems to be a good one and free of course. I ought to start a blog too, but haven’t gotten to it yet.. Maybe you will be the one to begin?

  3. Lene, I got your message. Thanks alot. But the best way to contact me through this blog is to write to

    Monica, I am sorry to hear of your troubles, that you have felt so let down in the past by some people. But you mentioned writing. I definitely think you should do some of that again. If nothing else, it’s good for the soul… but also, like I have said before: you never know who you will touch. Thanks for sharing such personal things. I wish you all the best!


  5. Hi Louis, Ants have always been important in my life, and I have read your ant-story with great and serious interest. I have in my life met people, who have told me, right in my face, that I am a nobody, a zero, and that nobody cares about what I say or write. So after having heard that several times in the beginning of the 80-s, I stopped voting. If nobody cares about what I write in so many papers that I did then, discussing family politics mostly, I did not have to waste time to go voting for some stupid politician, either.
    But I would never say to anybody, human, monkey, ant, worm, nothing living, that you are a nobody, that you are a zero! Everybody counts. The worms in the soil make a great work, digging there and making the soil good for growing. The ants are hard workers with great discipline. I have such respect for ants hills, and it is a lovely memory I have, connected to ant hills. I used to follow my youngest son to kindergarten/preschool school (not dagis, never!) when he was six. It was a very short walk, and before we parted, we had a special place, close to a huge ant hill, where we could hug, without any risk for being seen from the school. (And laughed at, by his schoolmates, which was the big fear for my son.) So we called that very going-to-school-hug for the “ant-hill-hug” – myrstackskram! I love the memory of it, but my son did not – until recently, 23 years old, he has started hugging me again. With loooong arms, so I cannot come too close! Unfortunately we cannot go to our very ant hill and take a hug, for good times sake, because the ant hill was long ago destroyed by children. The ants did their very best to repair their beautiful ant hill every time there were a “nature catastrply”, caused by those huge beings with peculiar things on their legs and feet. But finally, obviously, the naughty children, (whose parents had not learned them to respect nature) got help from grown ups, and the poor rests of OUR VERY ANT HILL was gone. It is sad but it is true. Sometimes I visit another ant hill, but it is a long way so I, shame on me, have to take the car to go there – not all the way but most of the way – to admire a very huge ant hill, situated on a place in the forest near the sea, where few people and especially few school children, go. That ant hill is getting bigger and bigger each time I see it. (Maybe I should take the bicycle, next time, and show the ants I am not as lazy as I am.) The ants sure have a lot to learn us people.
    Once a priest in the Swedish church asked me if I did not believe that human beings were the Crown of the Creation. I answered that the human beings had said that about themselves, no other creatures have said that. And that it was blasfemic to think you are so great, that you are for more than those proud lions in Serengeti and those too few surviving tigers in Asia. I do not think I am for more than an ant, and I respect everybody who respects everything living.
    Thank you for inspiring me to write this, Louis. For some time I have felt that I can never write again, because so many people are against me. But with my dachshound Cassie, Her Highness Cassie, out in the nature, I feel recreated a bit for every day. Maybe I can write again – or did’nt I?
    Best wishes from Monica, Onsala.

  6. Hi LouisAs I have said before…I love to read your stories…and this one also… 🙂 I would have loved to be there..ha ha…AMAZING picturesTake care…Love Marlene

  7. Although I laughed a lot reading your story, I don´t think it´s silly (in a bad way). God always shows us what we need to see (and tells us what we need to hear) to get the strength and courage to go on and do His will.

    It reminded me a great deal about a situation that happened when I had been a christian for just one year. A mother with her 7 year old child came in my way, and when we had just started to get to know each other, they became homeless. So of course I opened my home for them. They became christians, too, and suddenly it was up to me to guide them (especially the mother), to teach them and give moral support. But I had not had time to learn not, had not all the answers, and she was older than me and had a more dominant personality… I felt that I was failing again and again, when I didn´t see progress in her life. So one night I went outside to pray (or more like it: to scream to God, asking Him what He thought He was doing, giving me an assignment that was to hard for me). That night I heard Gods voice, tender and…sad. And it said: “How many workers do you think I have?” And He was right, of course. Maybe I wasn´t the perfect person for that job at that time. But I was the only one that cared enough for them to try.

    After that, I´ve never been afraid to do what God asks me to do. Cause I believe that even if at times I feel (and am) weak and insecure, God uses, to build His kingdom, a willing heart. And in time I to will learn and do better…

  8. Isn’t it great to be able to see the great things in the small things? I have also received unexpected comfort and a greater perspective through little animals…

    A little thing that happened last year, trying to rescue a possum on the way back from church, changed my heart that it opened up for the greatest empathy I have ever had. I don’t know *how* it worked, but I do know that the death of this little animal that I tried saving, made me really open up and feel what other people feel.

    On the other hand, some weeks ago another little animal was comforting me in my own sorrow.
    Normally those little lizards run away criss-cross before my feet as I walk down the woodland path and they don’t want anyone near. This day as I went on my hike, I was very sad about something that had happened and as I walked down the path I noticed how a lizard was coming down the same way, parallel to me. He did not run off to disappear, so I stopped and bent down to take a closer look at him. He stopped as well and kept looking at the huge being in front of him, with his funny little reptile eyes, so I begun talking to him… Since he wasn’t scared at all and behaved very unusual, I did feel something of a comfort. However, when I finally “asked” if I could take a picture, he ran off to hide! Hihihi


  10. Thinking of the ants struggle and you not pushing him, but staying at his side, encouraging him not to give up, I was thinking – are you familiar with the Norwegian artist Bjørn Eidsvåg’s song “Eg ser”?

    I will try to translate it:

    I see that you are tired
    But I cannot walk all your steps for you
    You must walk yourself
    But I will walk beside you

    I see you are in pain
    But I cannot cry all your tears for you
    You must cry yourself
    But I will cry along with you

    I see you will give up
    But I cannot live life for you
    You must live yourself
    But I will live with you

    I see you are afraid
    But I cannot enter death for you
    You must taste it yourself
    But I change death to life for you
    I have changed death to life for you

    I think it’s one of the most beautiful spiritual songs ever made.

  11. Sometimes the silliest experience is what makes most sense in the end. Great story Louis; I can really picture you with your face in the dirt, having a serious conversation with the ant. I’m sure he never forgot! And I love the close-up showing the ants face. 🙂 What a great angle!


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