Purpose-Driven Ant

Series: Zoo Cage Prophet | Story 2

Last updated 3/20/2023 at 10:31am

The heat was unbearable. My body didn't want to peel itself off the bunk. I tried to convince myself that maybe today I could take a break and just veg out . . . until I saw him.

He was all alone, and scurried frantically about. He moved left. Then right. Forward. Then left and right again. I was intrigued, and soon found myself mesmerized by his movements. His rhythmic walk invited me to join him.

I have lots of time on my hands, as I wait in Ad Seg (the hole) for my transfer. I have set a routine to sweep, then damp-wipe my cell floor four times a day. A clean floor helps keep the rats and roaches out. Plus, having a clean floor gives me the freedom to walk barefoot and even sit on the floor.

So it was a big surprise when I spotted a small bread crumb right smack in the middle of the cell. I noticed it from my bunk, but in my heat-induced laziness I decided to wait until later to pick it up. It was even more of a surprise to see the lone black ant dance its way to the crumb. His walk-dance was impressive. He knew the crumb was there, but he didn't know how far. Finally his persistence paid off-he reached it.

With full determination he examined the morsel, which was at least ten times the size of his little, itty-bitty body. But because of his purpose and ambition he did not let the size of the bread stop him. He pushed. He pulled. He knocked it left to right, then right to left. He climbed on it and tried to fit it under himself. He tried upside down, then downside up. When none of these worked, he began pushing and pulling again. His activity was non-stop. This ant was single-minded. He was set on taking the prize with him. He didn't care about the heat. He didn't care about the distance. He didn't give up. No, "lazy" was not part of his ant vocabulary.

As I stared in amazement at the tiny black ant, I began to laugh at myself. I said to Father, with a smile of joy on my face, "OK, OK Daddy. I get it. I need to learn from the ant." I then jumped off my back, washed off all the stickiness, and prepared myself for a day with a purpose. I needed to focus on God's work for me, and do it with joyful determination and ambition.

No matter how big the challenge, or high the price, I needed to push, pull, drag, and jump on it. I needed to run the race; and laziness wasn't going to get me to the finish line.

How often are our hearts not set? How often do we approach our lives with half-hearted purpose. We put our hand to the plow, but then look back. This is true of our daily tasks, but even worse, it's true in our service to our Lord.


Seeing the ant put his full heart into his job inspired me to do all things with a whole purpose, or not at all. I need to be like the purpose-driven ant.

Adrian Torres is incarcerated at California Institution for Men. He has written the book, The Walls Talk about walking with the Lord in prison.


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