Working at the allotment today I was weeding the beans, thinking about Eucharistic living, when I dug into an ants’ nest. All my worked stopped as ants ran everywhere rescuing eggs. I did not thank God for these creatures. I did start an anti-ant rant in my head. I have discovered nests in four of the beds this year and it drives me mad.

I was reminded, though, of a conversation a friend once had with a monk. This monk loves wasps. He likes their company in the woodshed while he is sorting apples from the orchard in the autumn. People ask sometimes “What are wasps for?” Well this monk doesn’t see them as for anything. They are beautiful; they create the most amazing structures. Thinking about this made me realise that a huge shift has to take place in our thinking for us to live Eucharistic lives. Before we can be thankful we need to realise that life isn’t all about us. The wasp question arises because we, as sinners, see the world around us as ours, for us to do with as we like. When we encounter something that isn’t “useful” we wonder why it is there.

This mind set doesn’t only apply to natural things. I am currently reading a fantastic historical novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. After an encounter with Mary Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell observes, “To the Boleyns other people are for using and disposing.” It is not just the powerful and ambitious who think like this. This attitude is prevalent today. For example, anyone who isn’t earning or spending can be seen, by some, as a burden. To often person’s worth is “given” by others dependent on their money or skills or ability or “drive”.

The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises start with a statement called the Principle and Foundation. It says that God created us in order to love him. We praise and serve God “in and through creation.” It is not us who are at the centre of creation, deciding what we will do with it, finding worth in something only if it is useful. Creation is God’s. He stands at the centre, giving and sustaining life because he loves it. We are God’s. We can only truly experience life fully when we are open enough to receive what God wants to give us.

It is only when we begin to realise this that we begin to be thankful. I don’t own the plants I grow on my plot. They are a gift. I can’t treat others just how I want to because they aren’t mine. It isn’t for me to decide what their worth is. They have been given their life as a gift in order for them to discover their true selves in the light of God’s presence. As we encounter others, having this perspective, we discover that each person is unique and in that uniqueness they are a gift.

Now I can’t promise to stop ranting at the ants, but I do have to allow God to change my thinking about my place in creation, so that I begin to be thankful for all that is given to me. Maybe then I will realise the beauty in a wasp.