By Donna Lee Schillinger
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw…
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; [cliff badgers] are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.
Unless you live in South Florida or California, getting outside this time of year is probably more of a discipline than a joy. A Texan by nature, even the excitement of winter sports can’t rouse me from in front of the wood stove. But our bodies need some natural Vitamin D! That’s not the only reason to get outside in winter. The winter natural world is just waiting to be discovered and appreciated in moments of silent reflection on God’s creation. And while you’re watching the birds in their diligent search for food or marveling at the reflection of light through ice, look too for the direct revelation God is just waiting to give you now that you’ve stepped outside, into His classroom.
I live in the woods and I’m convinced that if I knew enough science, I could give my kids a first-class education in botany, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, meteorology, animal husbandry, horticulture and agriculture without ever cracking a textbook or leaving our back yard! The world is the best classroom there is – hands down! My husband is the science teacher in the family, but there’s still a lot for me to learn (and teach) from the back yard – lessons about life – the practical stuff that we all need to know, as opposed to the specialized sciences. Solomon drew many observations from his back yard – “Look to the ant, you sluggard!” – and people are still learning from ants today.
I just read an article in National Geographic about how major corporations are applying things we have learned from ants to do business better: “In Italy and Switzerland, fleets of trucks carrying milk and dairy products, heating oil and groceries all use ant-foraging rules to find the best routes for deliveries. … In the U.S., Southwest Airlines has tested an ant-based model to improve service at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. … Southwest was so pleased with the outcome, it may use a similar model to study the ticket counter area.”
These business applications resulted from years of studying ant behaviors combined with complicated algorithms. However, we don’t a need to take a scholarly approach to discover the wisdom and knowledge the physical world offers. All we have to do is observe with curiosity and patience – and by that I mean sit still, clear our minds of worries big and small and open our eyes. Start by considering the lilies, as Jesus recommended, to help us let go of our worries in life. Ask God to give us wisdom through creation. God delights in doing stuff like that (Ephesians 1:9). In fact, God may show us something through nature that addresses a concern on our minds. God may help us reach a decision by revealing the answer in the wisdom of creation.
In that same issue of National Geographic was an article on malaria – the disease that’s killing 3,000 children a day in Africa alone, that’s a child every 30 seconds! Malaria is caused by a single-cell organism that the scientists quoted in the article say is “smarter than us,” in that it hides in the bloodstream and develops immunity to almost everything we’ve used to kill it in the past. However, recently, scientists discovered an herb, Artemisia, which seems to hold great promise in combating malaria – and get this – it was used in China 1,500 years ago to combat… (drum roll, please) malaria. Oh, the things we have known and forgotten! Oh, the things that are right under our noses to learn and yet we ignore!
If the solution to the world’s all time most heinous murderer, the malaria parasite, has been waiting silently in nature to be rediscovered, don’t you think it’s possible that God could have an answer to your problem somewhere in the great outdoors as well? Bundle up, get outside and give God a chance to tell you something special through nature today.
Hold this thought: God can speak to me through creation.
“Swarm Theory” by Peter Miller. National Geographic, July 2007.