Being a teacher, I am very fortunate to enjoy two months of holidays each year throughout the summer. While still attending to commitments such as home maintenance and lawn upkeep, such time off also affords great opportunity for relaxation.
Spending time with friends over dinner, going out to watch a movie or catching a baseball game on TV and the occasional round of golf are all pastimes that provide me with plenty of joy. Yet, the activity I love and appreciate the most is spending time with my family.
My wife and I are blessed with two young boys, and our son Isaac and I have quickly come to identify going to the park as one of our favorite things to do. In fact, it’s practically become a daily ritual for us to head over to the nearby park or splash pad.
Whether alone or surrounded by other kids and their parents, it’s so wonderful to see the smile on Isaac’s face when he swings in the air or slips down a slide.
As many children can be, Isaac is very curious and active in his exploration of all things new. He will often notice something random and seemingly insignificant, and delve into his knack for discovery of something fascinating.
During a recent visit to the park, he was drawn to the fine grains of sand underneath a playground structure.
As I knelt down beside him to demonstrate sand sifting through my fingers, we observed a tiny ant climbing along the surface. As Isaac expressed his innocent awe, I dropped some sand on the ant to cover him.
Within a couple of seconds, the ant resurfaced and continued his march. Again, I dumped a handful of sand on the ant. Much to Isaac’s amazement, the ant showed determination and emerged out of the sand, continuing on his way.
It was then that I was reminded we are all like the ant. All too often, we face adversity of one kind or another, falling down in pain and in times of great weakness.
Whether it be such struggles as family issues or problems related to school or personal friendships, stumbles can often lead to us being knocked down into a great pit of despair.
When discussing very difficult subjects or unpleasant experiences and situations in today’s society – particularly when involving youth – it is very tempting for us to give up and turn away from God. However, such challenging moments offer extremely rewarding opportunity in opening ourselves to Him.
During times of trial, our faith calls us to be relentless in our perseverance. Jesus’ gospel message affirms this, assuring us that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Now, I realize an ant fighting through a pile of sand dumped on him cannot be equated to a student wrestling with her parents’ divorce, or a high school football player seeing his dreams of playing at university come to a crashing halt due to a career-ending injury.
While facing a battle of its own, the ant’s struggle is dwarfed by that of a teenager needing to work three part-time jobs while attending school, in order to fund her post-secondary tuition.
That said, I will often quote author Timothy Pina when telling my students in class, “If God sees you to it, He will see you through it.”
If a minuscule insect can refuse to quit and thereby overcome virtually insurmountable odds, then why should we as humans not adopt the same attitude?
St. Paul reminds us that God’s grace manifests itself particularly in our pains and frustrations, revealing His perfect power in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In other words, while we may appear to be down, with God on our side, we are never done.
Recognizing God’s presence can only occur if we are open to it, however – if we say to Him, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)
Daily prayer invites God to reveal His will for us, while centering us on His direction during our times of difficulty.
Whether it is the rosary, being present in holy adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or any other time spent communicating with God, it is activity such as prayer that can provide the courage and clarity we seek and require to master our life hurdles.
We can therefore draw strength from the Lord, who carries us through darkness into light – from struggle to success. While this path likely may not be short or easy, we can rest confident that, much like the ant buried in sand at the park, we will overcome.
And with such an approach during hardships, we can not only be more like marching ants but, maybe one day, like marching saints.