I was quietly sitting on my back porch last Friday afternoon, just relaxing a bit before the whirlwind of the weekend activities began. Junior Prom Friday night, two baptisms on Saturday, and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the dedication of the Our Lady of Belen Chapel on Sunday.
As I casually looked down, I noticed a lizard slowly making its way across the tiled floor. I’m not a fan of lizards. There’s something about them that makes my skin crawl a bit. I can handle spiders, shoo away mosquitoes, and even admire cockroaches, but lizards, that’s a different story. They’re also annoying as they seem to walk cautiously all the time. It’s almost as if they expect to get caught. They take a few steps, stop, bob their heads up and down, then walk again, only to repeat this for what seems like an eternity.
This one particular guy was focused. He looked like he knew where he was going and seemed fixed on something. Just to his left, there was a small black ant. He was tiny. He zigzagged from one side to another, front then back. Unlike the lizard, this pip-squeak was constantly in motion, seemingly without a care in the world, rushing around absentmindedly. Then, without a sound, he was gone. In a flash, the lizard had simply gobbled him up. No chew, no lip-smacking, no fuss, into his mouth and gone. At that very moment, the ant ceased to exist and the lizard went on his panicked way.
Then, a thought came to me. There are literally billions of these tiny little black ants who on a daily basis disappear into the mouths of literally billions of annoying lizards around the world. Not a single person notices unless they happen to be relaxing on their back porch and happen to look down at the very moment the mini modern-day Stegosaurus has his feast. One second here, the next they are gone.
In the gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (10:29-31). Even though they are not sparrows, I figure Jesus could have just as easily made reference to little black ants. Billions of people may not notice them, but God, their Creator does.
How often do we feel small and insignificant? Like these ants, we zigzag through life, at times aimlessly, and feel like we have no direction. Does anyone care? Does anyone notice? According to Jesus, God does. Every hair on our head is counted. And, when some of it falls in the sink, he deducts it from the count to make sure the inventory is in check.
The fact is, we mean something to the greatest power in the universe. God loves us so intensely that He knows everything about us and constantly keeps tabs on us. If the sparrows and the ants and the lizards are known perfectly to God, then how much more are we, the crown jewel of His creation.
Let’s put things in perspective. St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his Principle and Foundation, reminds us that God created all things for the sake of mankind. Creation is here on this planet so that we can make use of them to the extent they bring us closer to Him. This, of course, means we have a great responsibility to take care of His creation. We are called to care for it not simply for the sake of creation, but for the sake of their constant ability to fulfill their mission to bring us closer to Him.
Animals and plants and rivers and oceans and mountains are there to serve mankind. They are there to sustain us, God’s children, so we can love, reverence, and serve God and, in this way, save our souls. There is a hierarchy in creation. Mankind is found at the top of the list. But, being at the top only means we have a greater responsibility to protect and defend the rest of creation that follows.
So, the next time you feel small and insignificant, do not be afraid. Know that God, who cares more for you than you will ever know, is there. You are worth more than sparrows and ants and lizards (definitely much more than lizards). Pray Psalm 43 that says, “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why do you groan within me? Wait for God, for I shall again praise him my savior and my God (5).