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Ants!

May 27, 2021
Ants don't have to be a bother inside. Get rid of ants naturally. | Metro

We got to hang out with two of our three daughters and their families this weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s in Kansas City. This is a rare treat for us. We don’t very often get to see more than one of them at a time, and almost never all three at the same time. Thousands of miles separate us. So when we get to be together, it’s a party. Lots of hugs and kisses. Lots of laughter. Lots of love. It was great!

When the end of the weekend came, instead of driving all the way through from Kansas City to Edmond (about 6 hours), we drove 3 hours to our oldest daughter’s in SE Kansas and spent the night there. While we were on the road to get there, she sent Debbie a text message that said they had come home to an ant infestation in their kitchen. They live rural, so ants and critters are part of life for them. But if you know our Becky, you know that ants are NOT OK!

When we got there a couple of hours after they had gotten home, Becky had cleaned out her kitchen cabinets and was Shop Vacing with enthusiasm (though not happy enthusiasm..), sending hundreds of ants to a godless eternity, where they belong. A driven woman, she was.

Since I have watched her grow up and know her nature, I knew the smartest thing I could do was stay out of her way. Which I did. Lucky for me, staying out of the way is one of my primary Spiritual Gifts. I knew better than to tell her that there are places where ants are considered a delicacy, raw and/or fried. So I just buttoned my lip and hung out in the other room.

Her husband sprayed the outside perimeter of the house, and they set ant traps. Four or five times before bedtime, she went back to the Shop Vac in the kitchen and sucked more ants up. First thing this morning, she was back in vacuum mode.

I have every confidence that she’ll rid their home of these unwanted pests. And probably sooner than her neighbors would have, had they experienced the same infestation. She’s got the tenacity gene.

I don’t like ants, either. I fully support her all-out war on them.

There are ants that I hate more than the ones that dwell in the ground and feast on anything sticky in or on our kitchen cabinets, though. I first heard of them from a friend, Shonna Erickson, a wonderfully skilled Marriage and Family Therapist I got to work with at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, and then read about in a book by Dr. Daniel Amen, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. These ants are Automatic Negative Thoughts. A.N.T.s. I have been plagued by them since I was in grade school. A veritable infestation. It may not have started for you in grade school, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got your own share of A.N.T.s, too. Here’s a few of mine from grade school and jr. high, which have, sadly, endured well into my adult years:

“You’re too short to ever be good at basketball or football.”
“But you’re too fat to be a jockey.”
“You’re not bright enough to be at the head of your class. You can’t do math or spell. So.”
“Preacher’s kids never get invited to the Cool Kids’ Table, so quit wishing for it. For crying out loud, your mom buys all your clothes (except for the ones she makes) at J.C. Penney!” (This was before J.C. Penney got a little bit hip.)

These are only a few of the A.N.T.s I feel safe enough to share. There are dozens more. All the others are far too ugly to share in a public forum.

I have a whole separate category for theological A.N.T.s. Like, “Go ahead and try, but you’ll never be good enough to satisfy God.” Or, “This Grace-Thing you keep hearing about? That’s not for you. Not until you get better.” Or, “God is so disappointed in you.” Or the ever-popular, “You’ll always be like this (whatever bad I had just done).” Or this one that’s done me lots of damage, “God’s not coming through on this. Again.” That one’s very closely related to this next one. “Nothing ever works out for you. Just brace yourself and deal with it.”

And then there’s this one that just doesn’t seem to want to go away: “You’re a fraud, and when they find out (and they WILL find out), you’re toast.”

Feeling my pain yet?

What do you do with these A.N.T.s? How do you make them go away? No, really. I’m asking you. If you’ve got a way to do this, I’d love to hear about it.

Here’s the only thing that’s worked for me. I stole this idea from Jon Acuff’s book, Soundtracks (which I highly recommend). Jon says to ask three questions of these messages that keep playing in our mind: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it kind?

There’s a good chance that these A.N.T.s I’m talking about (Acuff calls them broken soundtracks because they just keep playing over and over in our minds) won’t make it past the first question. Most of them are lies. And most of them come from deep in our memories, which means they’ve been playing and crawling about in our minds for years. This means they’ve got a virtual highway burnt into our neuropathways, and that makes them hard to eradicate.

Second question: Is it helpful? How many of the A.N.T.s crawling around in your mind are actually helpful? For me, the answer is NOT MANY! That mental voice that’s almost constantly saying (and often shouting), “yer not enough!” and “you’ll never make it!” is never helpful. If it’s ever happened that one of those voices said, “This is going to be really hard, but if you apply yourself, you can do it,” I have no memory of it.

And then the third question: Is it kind? You need to look as objectively as you can at your own A.N.T.s and answer that question for yourself, but for me, NONE of mine are kind. Brene Brown once wrote, “Speak to yourself as you would to a friend.” Great advice. There are times you have to be brutally honest with a friend, but if they’re really a friend, you’ll be kind when you do this. Most of us aren’t very kind to ourselves. At least not in the mental conversations we have between our ears.

So what are we supposed to DO about this stuff? Well, I don’t have a money-back guarantee, but here are a few things that at least offer some practical things to go to work on.

First, PRAY! Ask God to empower your effort to exterminate your A.N.T.s., and to open your heart and mind to the truth about what He believes about you. The best start point for any improvement effort or enterprise is prayer. So start there.

Next, in partnership with God and His Spirit, IDENTIFY YOUR A.N.T.s. Call them out. What are the messages you keep hearing in your heart and mind? Write them out. Get them out of your mind and onto paper (or your screen; but paper is actually better – I’ve got a whole big explanation for this, but not now).

In the margin of your page beside each of your identified A.N.T.s, write T H K. Then circle T if it’s True, H if it’s Helpful, K if it’s kind. If it’s not True, Helpful or Kind X over all three of them.

That much isn’t that hard. From here on, it gets a little more difficult. So strap in.

What you do now is RETIRE these A.N.T.s and broken soundtracks. Your make a conscious decision, with God’s help, to shut these messages down when they pop up. One way to do this is to say to yourself when one of them jumps up, “Wait a minute. I already retired that A.N.T. Be gone!” It won’t work every time, but it works better than you might think.

Then you REPLACE THEM. For some of us, this is the most difficult thing of all. It’s also part B of Retiring them. You replace these lies with truth.

Here’s an example from my list. A.N.T. = “You’re too short to be good at football or basketball.” Replacement = “Dude, you’re an almost perfect height for golf.” Here’s a better replacement, though: You’re just the height God wants for what He wants to do in the world with you.

There are hundreds of truthful replacement statements about you. Most of them will sound strange and maybe even boastful when you say them out loud to yourself. You’ve never thought most of them about yourself. In fact, you may not believe them about yourself. Telling yourself what God says about your redeemed self is the best truth to tell yourself. If you’d like some help with this, send me an email at steve@truenorth.live and I’ll send you a simple document that will help you with this.

The point, the objective on this is to break the chains that A.N.T.s and broken soundtracks have on you, and move into your best life by believing about yourself what God says He believes about you. It will take effort and intention. None of this will happen accidentally. But you’re not on your own with it. You’re in partnership with the One who made you and knows you better than you know yourself. He’s also the One who wants you to live your best life. So strap in, put your hand in His and start exterminating A.N.T.s and breaking broken soundtracks.

From → Marriage

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