top of page

Ants Versus the Volcano

(a Steve Orr scripture reflection)


It’s okay to expect a lot from a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. It’s that kind of place. Beauty and grandeur are just about every where on every island. That also makes it difficult to decide just what to do and where to go on any given day. Happily, I had that figured out for our first day. My goal for that day was to experience Mount Kilauea, the long-smoldering volcano that originally formed the big island of Hawaii. 


When the moment arrived, we queued up with everyone else, awaiting our turn to peer into the heart of the volcano. No one setting time limits, so each person, couple, or group took as long as they wished. For me, it seemed we waited forever! Still, even a watched pot will, eventually, boil. And our time did finally come. 


As we stepped forward to take our place at the front of the line, I was keyed up. Before that day, I had never actually seen a volcano, even at a distance. Sure, I had viewed this one, just minutes earlier as we drove toward it. But what I saw was just a big hill. Now was the moment of truth. Now I would stare down into the heart of the Earth. Now I would see, with my own eyes, the stuff that came before. 


What I saw: a roughly circular patch of dirt crisscrossed by lines of ants marching one behind the other. 


After all the emotional buildup, I was profoundly disappointed. Had I traveled half the Pacific Ocean just to watch a line of ants march across a dusty spot? I looked to one side and caught the expressions of the folks just turning to leave the lookout point. Clearly, they were in awe. I turned to the other side where I saw a similar expression on my wife’s face.


What was I missing here? I looked back at the view, seeking to understand.


And then, everything before my eyes rearranged itself. Suddenly, I was not looking at ants crossing a patch of dirt. Suddenly, those ants became humans, people so far away from me that they appeared as small as ants. And that dusty spot became an enormous volcanic caldera, plugged up with cooled magma.


Perspective changes everything.


Before I fully perceived what I was experiencing, my understanding was wrong. It felt right. But it was only after I saw what was actually before me that I had a true understanding.


And that’s the situation alluded to in this week’s selections from Acts and the gospel of John. The perception of...well…almost everyone, was wrong. It was wrong about sin, wrong about righteousness, and wrong about judgment. Jesus taught his disciples that when He sent the “Spirit of Truth” to them, they would all, finally, be able to understand the truth about these things. 


That condition still exists for some. They can’t understand sin because they do not believe in Jesus. They can’t understand the truth about righteousness because they do not accept that Jesus is with God. They do not understand judgment because they do not acknowledge that “the ruler of this world” has already been condemned. Jesus said that, without the Advocate (the Holy Spirit), some of what we need to know would be too much to bear. We need to be gently guided into understanding these sometimes counterintuitive things. 


Some would have us believe that God is so far away we must look like ants crawling across a dusty patch of dirt. That is not true. God sees us as we truly are, and loves us. The Holy Spirit was sent to help us reciprocate.  


Perspective changes everything.


bottom of page