Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The cake on the table

I’ve just been eating some of the ‘Wiggly Worms’ that were a recent Birthday present from one of my sisters and her three small children. (I wonder why I suspect that Robert, aged 9, and Andrew, aged 7, had something to do with their choice?) Fortunately, the worms are made of sugar-coated jelly and are very tasty.

As I chewed, I thought back to an afternoon when someone gave me a slice of cake, which I ate and enjoyed with a cup of tea. I’d intended to wash the plate on which the cake had been served, but, with one thing and another happening, I didn’t get around to it. I went out, forgetting that, on the table, were some cake crumbs and the remains of some icing.

When I returned, there was the plate, still on the table where it had been left. The plate, however, was crawling with ants. Because of even more interruptions, I still didn’t manage to wash the plate before I left for town. What surprised me when I came back a couple of hours later was that the plate was as clean as if it had only just been washed. The ants had done a better job of cleaning the remains of the cake than I could ever have managed.

As I write this ‘Pause for Prayer’, I occasionally visualise the plate on the table and marvel at the wonderful work done by the ants. How many ants were working to remove every scrap of evidence of my piece of cake? How did they coordinate their efforts? From where did they come and to where did they go when they finished their feast?

The ants on the remains of the cake reminded me of the journeys I sometimes made between Serenje and the Luapula River in Zambia. For some distance along the road through the swamps, the land on either side was marked by literally thousands of small anthills. Every time I travelled along that stretch of road, I wondered how many millions, perhaps billions, of ants lived in that area. How far do their territories stretch? How does each ant find its way home when it leaves its own anthill? Is one ant accepted in another anthill or is it treated as a stranger and an outcast?

From thinking of ants, I began thinking about people.

People have been on earth for many thousands of years. If there are supposed to be two billion people alive at this present time, then there must have been billions of people who have died in the course of the centuries. Jesus said that his father knows each one of us and knows all our needs, but I find it amazing that God is able to know billions of people. If I look at the ants on the plate, I would find it impossible to identify one ant as opposed to any other ant. They all look identical to me. Yet the amazing thing is that not one of us is identical to anybody else in the eyes of God.

Not only that, we know that God has known our names from all eternity. He said that he has called each one of us by our name and that each one of us is his….and that means that he distinguishes each one of us from billions of others who have been around during human history.
Still looking at the ants, I also found myself wondering about Heaven. There will be billions of us with God: people of every time, race, nationality and social situation. I wonder if we’ll be chatting together about our lives on earth? It could be very interesting….or will we be spending our whole eternity thinking of nothing other than God? Who knows! Really, ants provide a very interesting insight into the nature of God’s relationship with people. Perhaps I should leave out a dirty plate for the ants more often!

Lord, you have made this world such a fascinating place. I find it amazing that you know me from any other person in history. Lord, you are incredible! I love you. Amen

God bless,
Sr. Janet