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The Ant in the Thicket: A Metaphor for Life

Many years ago, I went on a vacation to a beautiful resort with hiking trails.  During one of my hikes, I stopped for a rest and sat on the edge of the trail to take in the scenery.  As I was sitting there, I noticed a tiny ant discover a crumb left behind by a hiker.  I felt the ant’s excitement as it picked up the food with a burst of energy. 

It wasn’t far from the colony.  From my vantage point, I could see the anthill about a foot and a half away from where the ant was.  I watched the ant in fascination as it attempted to carry the morsel of food to its colony. 

The problem was that there was a small patch of thicket growing out of the sidewalk.  To me, it was a small patch.  To the ant, it was insurmountable.  I watched the ant scurry straight into the thicket and immediately begin to struggle.  Trying to keep hold of the food while pushing its way through the thicket proved to be a futile task. 

As a larger being with a higher point of view, I spoke gently to the ant and said, “Hey little guy.  You’re taking the hard way.  Just back up and go around this thicket.  Your path is clear on both sides.”

Of course, the little ant couldn’t understand me.  So it continued to struggle.  I pondered how to help it.  I thought about putting a stick in its way to force it to change directions, but I realized that in doing that, I’d frustrate the ant even further.

If the ant were human, and I, with my high vantage point were Spirit, it would have seen such an act as another reason why it would never reach its goal.  So often in life we are the ant, wanting spirit to just clear the path for us, refusing to reroute, insisting on making it through the thicket.

I imagine Spirit saying, “My love, let me lead you around this thicket.”  Spirit gently coaxes us.  Sometimes, when we don’t listen or can’t understand, Spirit tries another way, always gentle at first, but sometimes our stubborn will calls for a boulder in our path to get us to reroute.  Often, though, we are too bullishly attached to the route we chose, refusing to see that it being riddled with obstacles is a sign to try another route. 

Spirit acts as a GPS for us, constantly trying to reroute us when we step into the thicket.  But instead of seeing the signs as guidance, we sometimes ignore the messages coming in and stubbornly forge ahead, spending our energetic and financial resources needlessly.  That’s when Spirit has to stand back and let us struggle.  We do have free will, after all.

If the ant had just stopped to rest, I feel certain that it would have come to its own conclusion that it was time to find another path.  It had no way of knowing how far that thicket went.  It didn’t need to give up on getting the food to the colony, because the problem wasn’t in the goal.  The problem was in the path.  There were multiple easier ways back to the colony.  It just had to be willing to try a different route.

From that day forward, every time I face an obstacle in my path, I recall the ant and ask myself if it’s time to reroute.  I have faith that I’m being divinely guided.  I remember that I’m on the ground with a limited view.  Spirit is above with a clear vantage point.  I no longer see obstacles or thickets as a problem, but rather a reason to get still and listen to the guidance being sent to me.

Fearing the reroute is futile.  It takes us away from solution mode and even further away from peace.  When a reroute is necessary, I affirm, “My path is clearer on the other side.”  Then I get quiet and wait for the whisper that says, “Try this, instead.”

The whisper comes in many forms.  Sometimes it arrives as an idea in my head.  Other times something comes along to show it to me: a picture in a magazine, a song title, the comment of a stranger, something I had written long ago that I suddenly find. 

Spirit has many ways of communicating with us.  We just have to be open and patient enough to be shown the way.  We have to invite Spirit’s help and then be willing to receive it.

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