We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
– 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)
In June of 2017 my family and I moved back to Alabama from Georgia. Moving is rarely a stress-free experience, and this move was no exception. In fact, this move was even more chaotic because we were moving into a small rental house and also expecting the birth of our son. Nevertheless, we completed our move in a timely manner and settled into our temporary abode, doing our best to make it feel like a “forever home.” In the end, the house was ready to be lived in and the upstairs nursery was fit for a little king.
Then, one month before the expected delivery date of our son, my wife and I both noticed ants crawling on the window sill in the nursery. We immediately sprayed ant killer around the window, inside and out, hoping it would kill the ants long before my son arrived. The next morning I returned and found a large number of ants dead on the window sill, but still more ants had gathered and seemed unhindered by the ant killer. Not wanting to infest my unborn son’s room with toxic chemicals, I immediately rushed to the store and bought ant traps and ant killing gel to apply to the outside of his window. The next morning I returned and found more dead ants as expected, but I also found more live ants.
Over the next few days we applied large quantities of cinnamon, vinegar, lemon, peppermint, black pepper and dish soap to the window sill, but the ants were still getting inside. Feeling defeated, I suggested to my wife something more that we could do to seal the window, but we might lose our security deposit on the house. Receiving my wife’s approval, I rushed off to the store and picked up a can of insect killing, ready-to-use foam sealant. I then opened both sections of the window and sprayed the foam up, down and across each side. After closing the window, I stood and watched as the insect killing foam continued to expand, sealing the window completely shut and hopefully putting an end to the infestation of ants.
The next morning, I went back to my son’s room to check the window and I could not believe it, there were more ants. At that point we gave up, agreeing that we had done all we could do on our own. We obviously needed the help of a professional. Somewhat by “chance” we stumbled upon a man named Russell, the owner of a local pest control company in our area. Russell was not only a skilled professional, he also had Masters of Science degree in entomology and had been a professor at a local university teaching on the subject. Academic accolades aside, Russell knew how to control ants.
Later that day I met Russell at the front door and I shared the details about our ant problem. I shared information about all of the things we had tried in order to control the ants, and how nothing had worked. Russell nodded, but something told me he had heard it all before. I asked if he wanted me to show him my son’s room, but surprisingly he said “no.” Instead, Russell asked to see the basement. I pointed to the door and a moment later Russell was gone.
Less than five minutes later Russell returned and said “I think I found the problem, and I believe I have taken care of it.” Shocked I asked Russell if he would at least like to see my son’s room. In a very sympathetic way, Russell said he would look at it if that would make me feel better, but he did not think it was necessary. Feeling a little frustrated, I said goodbye and thought through my options should I find more ants in the room the next morning.
Early the next morning I went to my son’s room and I was shocked. For the first time in many weeks, when I walked in there were no ants to be found. I spent a long time searching for even one ant, but I found nothing. I told my wife, and we both checked throughout the day, but still no ants. I later shared my surprise with Russell and admitted that I initially doubted his competence when he did not visit my son’s room. Russell simply stated that the ants were not entering the house through the window, the window was simply where they were showing up. The ants were actually entering through the basement and travelling through the wall up to my son’s room. Russell said that in order to stop ants from entering my son’s room he needed to locate the point of entry, which was in the basement, and that is where he placed the traps.
I believe the underlying message of this illustration is rather obvious… we had worked meticulously to combat our ant problem at the place where the ants appeared, but we did nothing to fight the problem at the original point of entry. We killed many ants in the window, but as long as more ants were coming in through the basement, there was a steady flow of replacements arriving throughout the day.
Similar to the ant infestation at our rental house, a shared goal in counseling is to eliminate ANTs, more commonly referred to as Automatic Negative Thoughts. The reason for this is that negative thoughts produce chemicals in the brain that lead to the creation of intense emotion, which then drives our unwanted behavior. Memories carried forward from the past, information perceived as unpleasant by the five senses and other destructive sources of influence that affect our overall wellbeing must be checked at the door. Until all of the entry points are secured, the enemy maintains the upper hand. However, when the entry points are fortified, we are in a better position to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.