I just had to share this cool moment with you. A short time ago, I walked by a vase that was holding two gladiolas (gladioli?) from my garden. These were flowers I had cut and brought into the house at least four days ago.
In case you don’t know what gladiolas are, here are some sample pictures. I’m not in any way endorsing this nursery. I just like their pictures of glads.
They look like a sword filled with flowers one above another. One problem is that they keep tipping over because they’re so heavy. When the stems snap completely in two, I bring them inside and put them in a vase.
But here’s the issue I’m having. Ants love glads. They invade the flowers by the hundreds, or so it seems when I bring a glad inside. As I walked by the vase holding the glads, I noticed a dark blob floating on top of the water in the vase. So I stopped to check it out.
Do you know what the blob was? Ants. There were 14 ants clinging together to keep themselves from drowning in the water. Now, I’m not usually an ant lover. And I really hate getting them in my house. But these persistent little dudes impressed me so much that I scooped them out of the water with a measuring spoon and took them outside to where the glads are planted in the yard.
I set the spoon on the rock wall containing the garden, and within three minutes, all 14 ants had scattered back into the garden. Not one of them had died. I was spellbound as I watched them, one-by-one, dry off, get their bearings, and figure out how to get down off of the spoon.
Their community is what had saved the ants from drowning. Individually, they would not have survived (and I sadly noted four or five little ant bodies down at the bottom of the vase), but together, they were staying afloat and alive on top of the water. Remember that the flowers – and therefore the ants, too – had been in that vase for four days!
It was the first time I ever understood how someone could decide to become a scientist who studies ants (aka Myrmecologists for you brainiacs out there). As I stood there watching, I was trying to remember if I had really just recently heard a story or was just imagining that I had heard about ants being able to float like that. Sure enough, a study published this past April announced that yes, ants can float. And because the study is from one of my favorite universities, I’m especially happy to link to it here. Their study focused on fire ants, but apparently regular garden ants can do the same. Or at least, my ants can.
God and the ants
For a moment in the crazy busy-ness of my day, while I watched those ants scurry back to their natural habitat, God nudged me.
I’ve spent time in the last couple of days working on a chapter for a book I’ve been writing about trees in the Bible. This particular story (Isaiah 44:13-23) highlights an unnamed carpenter in the book of Isaiah who grows trees and then cuts them for wood. He uses half the wood for good purposes: fire to warm himself and cook a meal. But then he uses the rest to carve an idol to worship.
One of the points I make in the chapter is that the carpenter is more vulnerable than usual because he has no community to support him or correct his mistaken approach to faith. And that’s why God tapped me on the shoulder as I watched the ants.
I’ve felt overwhelmed in multiple areas of my life and, particularly this week, felt like I would drown in it all without God. But God has built up a community of faithful friends around me, and this week more than usual, I’ve felt His presence in their presence.
Today alone, He sent strangers I had never met before and am likely to never see again to build a safety net around me to keep me from drowning. (Let me send a shout out to the best tow-truck driver ever and to the friendly man whose house I broke down in front of. He brought ice water and cake and insisted that my mom and I sit on his shaded patio while we waited for help to arrive.)
So while the day wasn’t my favorite day ever, and there is a lot of it I wouldn’t care to relive, I’m glad I didn’t miss the blessing of God’s presence in those who refused to let me sink to the bottom of the vase.