This week I traveled up to the Midwest to visit my in-laws. We’re spending 12 days here, which sounds like a great vacation. I love seeing this family.
Unfortunately for me, I have no vacation buddies because my husband and my in-laws are still working on weekdays, they’re just doing it from home. That leaves me just hanging out in the basement by myself.
I knew this before we left for our trip so I planned a thousand different things that I could do to keep myself busy until their workday ended each day. I can go for walks. I can paint. I’m re-finishing a statue for my MIL. I have cooked and done laundry. Even though I am far from home, this does not feel like a vacation because I am busy busy busy. As soon as I finish one task, my brain says, “Okay, what is the next task?”
I feel very much like an ant, a worker ant. In ant colonies there are usually 3 types of ants: queen, males, and workers. There’s usually one queen per colony, though some have more than one. The males will die off shortly after mating. Then finally there are the worker ants, my sisters that I relate to so much.
I always thought that there was some task master at the top of the colony who was directing the ants to their jobs, keeping them all so organized. According to a 2013 study published in Science Magazine, this isn’t true at all. These workers must dole out jobs themselves in a self-organized manner based on a specific set of behavioral rules that are established due to the local environment and individual interactions with other workers.
This study found that there are 3 major jobs that they complete. When they are young, they take care of the larvae, and make sure they get fed. Then as they grow a little older they begin to take care of the nest. They scout around looking for structural weaknesses or garbage, cleaning up when they see any. Then finally the oldest ants are the ones that will go forage for food. This job is the most dangerous because it takes the ants away from the nest.
It amazes me that these ants are just able to read the environment and see that there are more ants working with the larvae, so they move up to the cleaning patrol. They are just hyper aware and continue to work hard, no matter the task, day in and day out. This is basically how I’ve felt. I’ve had my main project/task for the day, but as I’m running around performing it, I’ll see there are dishes in the sink and so I will stop and clean that up. I’ll be back to my original task and I’ll hear that the laundry has finished and needs changed, so I’ll go take care of that. This trip has just been a constant go-go-go without really a break. About day 4 of being here I realized how much this was a problem. I was so busy keeping busy that I hadn’t stopped to pray.
All of us will have times where we are busy. Some of those times may be self-imposed like mine. Others may be because you’re running a houseful of kids who are starting back at school. Other times may be because you are working on some big project at work that has you working extra hours. Whatever it is, we can never let ourselves get too busy that we forget to pray. All throughout Jesus’ ministry we hear of him going off to pray.
Even though His work was the most important work that anyone would ever do, he still stopped so that he could give time back to God. In this way, we must follow in His footsteps. If you’re someone who cannot avoid all of the chaos and busy-ness of your day, maybe wake up 15 minutes early and start your day with a rosary or some reading of scripture. Or stay up a few minutes longer at bed time and end your day talking to God. If you’re like me and COULD make time in your day for prayer, but you’ve just chosen other things instead, do it. Make time for prayer. If you’re not great at sitting still (hence us keeping busy 24/7), try praying while you do an activity. When I was home in Texas, I would say a rosary while I swam laps in the pool. It was a nice repetitive motion to go along with the repetitive prayers of the rosary.
Our prayer life has to be a priority, we must make time for it. Sometimes this will be harder than others, but it is necessary that we always do. Where in your day today can you add some prayer? When in your schedule can you draw yourself away to spend some time alone with the Lord?
On a side note: ants’ work ethic is mentioned in the Bible. Did you know that?
“Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.”
- Proverbs 6:6-8
Having a nice balance of a strong work ethic mixed with a strong prayer life is the ideal way to live.