A noted French naturalist, Jean Henri Fabre, took a flowerpot and placed upon its rim a group of processionary caterpillars one behind the other to form a circle. He then placed their favorite food in the middle of the circle. Each caterpillar followed the one ahead, never diverting from the one in front. For seven days, these instinctively driven animals circled the flowerpot until one after one they started dropping dead from either exhaustion or starvation. To avoid death, all that was needed was to feast upon the food within their grasp. Unfortunately, the processionary caterpillars were locked in a cycle of following and were unable to extricate themselves from a path of death.
If you’re like me, this story probably hit a little too close to home. Many of us are caught up in the cycle of following even if it leads us to endless and mindless toil. We go to college, get jobs because that’s what everyone else does. After work, we come home, eat a little dinner, watch a little TV, go to bed and repeat. We call it, “the Rat Race.” Why? Because that’s what we see everyone else doing. For many, the only reason to go to work is to pay the bills. How miserable a life?
What’s true about life is also true about the religious choices. I’ve made a habit of asking people, who go to church, why they chose that one. Many say, “that’s where my family goes.” The rest choose a church based on size and programs, once again, looking at what others are doing rather than examining the word of God for the truth.
This processionary process also happens with churches themselves. I asked a member of a local congregation, who were looking to hire a youth pastor, “where did you get the idea of a youth pastor?” They realized they only know about the office of a “youth pastor” because of what denominations have done.
This reminds me of 1 Samuel 8. The nation of Israel desired to have a king. What reason did they offer to Samuel? They said, “now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” [v5b]. What they had forgotten was that they already had a King, His name is I Am. “They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” [v7b].
If the reason for doing a thing is because that’s what everyone else is doing, then we’re destined to starve. Our moms where right when they said, “If everyone else wanted to jump of a bridge would you want to also?” Our Lord said it this way…
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Human beings are different from caterpillars in that we can change our direction in life. Unfortunately, we often confuse motion with meaning or achievement. We find ourselves in ruts, often dug by others.
Yes, we all want our lives to have meaning, to have a purpose. God, our creator, gave us purpose, He showed us a direction. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” [Ecc 12:13]. Before Jesus left this earth, He commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” [Matt 28:19-20].
We have a purpose higher than the 80-100 years we live on earth. We have an eternity to consider.
PS. Do you remember in the experiment of the caterpillar how the food was within sight? The bread of life, God’s word, is never too far away that we’re unable to read it and be filled. [cr. Ac 17:27]
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.