A lesson from the ants

We have recently started having ants come into our bathroom. I can’t figure out where they are coming from or why, and our bathroom floor is cleaner than ever, so I am at a loss for how to deal with our little intruders. They are starting to drive me crazy.

This morning, as Doug was getting out of the shower, he realized that there was a little trail running across the floor. He sprayed Simple Green (our weapon of choice) all over and cleaned up the casualties. A few hours later, Lauren, who was here watching the kids while I worked, came into the living room and said: “You have a little infestation going on in the bathroom.” I opened the door prepared for a trail, but instead was confronted by something much more like a carpet. It was disgusting.

So again, our bathroom floor is cleaner than ever.

As I marveled at the persistence of these little buggers, and the apparently endless stream of reinforcements, I realized that they are an example of persistence. The Bible of course gives us some more appealing images of persistence, but I found this one strangely compelling. No matter what we do, short of gassing the whole place, these ants just keep coming back. Whatever it is they are seeking after, they are convinced that it must reside in my bathroom. And they are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get the prize.

This speaks to me in two ways. First, I think about how our neighborhood, and even more specifically our street, continues to suffer from the crimes of poverty: drug dealing, gang activity, robbery, murder. And in the midst of these deterrents (for they are more than obstacles), we stay. We live and marry and have children; we gather to study and worship and serve and pray; we laugh and love and celebrate. We are a bit like those ants that refuse to change their minds that they are going where they belong.

The second is this: I was reading Thielicke again last night and was struck by his reflections on the man who sold all he owned so that he could buy the field that hid the pearl of great price. He had some great things to say about this (everyone should read Thielicke!) and I realized that my annoying ants were a crude illustration of his point. Whatever they have decided must exist in our bathroom, it is clear that it is of supreme value to them, and they will risk it all to have it.

It is difficult for me to think of my bathroom in such grandiose terms! But maybe when Jesus told this parable, he was imagining a dingy little field that on the surface did not have much to offer? Though the man did sell all he had to buy it, maybe he was poor and barely scraped together enough cash for what would have looked to anyone else like a stupid investment?

Someone recently commented here that no one would choose to live in my neighborhood. There are in fact beautiful things about where I live. There are things here that are quite easy to love! But there are of course also many things to outright despise, and those usually enjoy the greater press (and I am guilty of that here, I am sure). As strange and foolish the choice to live here looks on the surface, I have learned that often enough God’s pearls are found in the unlikely places…


  1. Okay, I can’t stop myself from giving you a suggestion about getting rid of the ants (not the point of this blog, I know). When we last had this problem, though not as severe as yours from the sounds of it, we were given a suggestion to get a plug-in device (ultrasonic pest repellant – we bought the cheap one and it works) from the hardware store that somehow stops the bugs and ants. It makes a slight clicking sound every few seconds that you get used to and don’t notice after a few days. But it has worked beautifully for us – no more ants in the kitchen. It’s a miracle!

  2. Kris–You are wonderful!!! I am a desparate woman and you give me words of hope 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Erika, i had ants a few months ago and laid down a trail of baby powder (i’m sure you have some of that bad boy stuff around) where they were marching. I guess they can’t get through it or something. Anyway, it really worked. What’s mercy & aaron think of the little darlings?

  4. I’ll try the baby powder today!

    Mercy LOVES her ants outside (I let her feed them and talk to them) so I was a little afraid of what she would think of us killing them inside, but she’s actually all indignant that they are in her bathroom, and whenever she goes potty she looks all around and tries to find some and gest all excited when I get them. I think Aaron is oblivious!

  5. FYI, Here is my ant story. Once in MO. we had ants in the bathroom and I could not figure out what they wanted. I eventually tracked them to a small bag of throat lozenges which they had eaten holes in. YUCK! Good Luck!

  6. Funny, funny thread. The ants here in Denver are freezing their little thoraxes off so no worries at this point on our end. But we lived for many years in inner city LA and I remember the battles.

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