Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways and be wise. Proverbs 6:6 (NRSV)
Lauren and I recently celebrated our ninth anniversary. In a week, we will celebrate the 19th anniversary of the first time we met each other. Lauren’s mother gave us a homemade card that read, “9 or 19! Any way you look at it, it’s a long time!”
If you’re doing the math, you will realize that Lauren and I met each other just a few days before September 11, 2001. It was our freshman year at college. Those were days of such confusion. Everyone was grieving. Grief turned to anger and fear and vengeance. We often found solidarity in those feelings. Many of you remember those days, months, years. I know you have your own stories to tell. There are also many of you who don’t remember. Perhaps you were too young or perhaps you’d not yet been born. Some of you are in the early days of your own young adulthood adventure – perhaps you’re starting at college or entering the workforce or seeking travel and new experiences. I recently told a freshman at WCU how difficult it was to start college on 9/11 – my grades suffered, I left the church all together for a time, I became especially skeptical of government and politics. I then confessed to the young student, “It all pales in comparison to 2020.” Then we talked and prayed together.
I’ve thought a lot about my days in college recently. I suppose this is because I’ve recently taken on the mantle of the student again and I empathize with those who study. More than that, I empathize with these young people who one day move into their freshman college dormitory (can you remember the excitement of that day!) only to have to move out the next day. 2020 has certainly walloped us all with a nine-pound hammer! But let us take a moment to grieve what many of our college students are experiencing right now – especially those just starting out. Let us put ourselves in their shoes. Let us remember what it was like for us so long ago. Let us remember the people we met. Let us remember the people we loved and fell in love with – the bliss and turmoil of it all!
A year or so after 9/11/01, something unforgettable happened. I was walking with a friend in the pine forests around Pittsboro, NC. We came upon an old Weber grill lid, the kind that is just a big metal dome. It was sitting right-side- up on the ground and had been there for some time. We decided to see what was under it! I picked up the lid and immediately saw thousands of tiny ant eggs. It was disturbing at first, but then something amazing happened. With- in 60 seconds, each egg was carefully picked up and taken into the underground colony. My friend and I later shared some observations. No ant ever took time to question, “Should I help this egg?” “Does this egg support my political views?” “Shouldn’t we have a meeting, an election or something before we decide how best to act?” “Shouldn’t we forget the eggs and plan our retaliation?!” No, when their home was destroyed, their dome of safety removed, the ants went to immediate and decisive work to protect the most vulnerable in the colony.
I don’t know what Proverbs 6:6 is saying to you today; I just know it has something to say. Soon, you’ll be hearing about ‘college adoption’. This ministry pairs college students with parishioners at this church who maintain a connection of love with the student throughout the school year. Never has this ministry been more important than now! It matters not if you are related to the student. It matters not if you know the student. It doesn’t even matter if the student has ever been to this church! Once we’ve ministered to our college students, then we will call Wesleyan campus ministries at our local universities and find more students who need a ministry of love! If you are tired of not knowing how to live out your call to ministry in 2020, then “go to the ant … consider its ways, and be wise.”