“Tate’s clothes in his closet are covered in ants.” That was the text my wife sent me before church as I was counseling with a couple this past week. Talk about “ants in your pants”! After church I stopped by the store, bought some ant spray, and went home to kill those little demons (anyone else know what I’m talking about?). I searched inside and out of every shirt and pants that were hanging in his closet and killed several ants but I knew there had to be more. They were on the floor as well. Now, if you’ve ever dealt with ants before you know there is usually a trail leading to or away from some food they are after. I followed the trail and found a Ziploc baggie full of Goldfish in an old diaper bag. The bag was brown with the sea of ants as you could barely see the orange Goldfish. I found the source, killed the home invaders, and saved the day.
That incident made me think about how we sometimes attempt to solve our deepest problems. The ants in the pants were a problem but killing them didn’t eliminate the source that was luring them inside the house. The real problem lay deep under the surface. The real problem was the goldfish. The ants were the byproduct of leaving food out in the wrong places. Sometimes we attempt to handle the surface issues but never get around to the heart of the matter. And the matter is usually the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. We tell ourselves we are never going to talk that way to our friend again but never deal with the offense bound up in the heart. We convince ourselves not to lie anymore but ignore the insecurities and low self-image that caused us to lie in the first place. We’ll never get drunk or high again we promise but the hurt deep inside remains unhealed and we wonder why we cannot stay free. In order to stop the ants from coming back you have to remove the reason they are there in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong – you have to kill the ants, too, but they will keep coming back again and again. Maybe not in the closet but they will show up somewhere else if the source drawing them in is not eliminated. You have to attack and solve the source of the problem not just deal with the consequences the source has created. As long as you continue to store things in your heart that shouldn’t be there (offense, hurt, bitterness, greed, lust, insecurity, sin, etc.) they will draw in more and more surface issues (addictions, wrong actions, bad attitudes, poor judgment, etc.). Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart.” What is filling your heart? You want to change your speech? Change your heart. You want better actions and reactions? Change your heart. Tired of the consequences of those addictions? Change your heart. Everything comes down to letting God change what’s filling and fueling your heart. Surface sins are attracted to and linger around hidden sins and hurts. For every fruit there is a root. If you don’t like the bad fruit then you’ve got to solve it at the root. What kind of foundation is your heart rooted in? Good root = good fruit. Bad root = bad fruit. God can give you a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) rooted in Him and a new heart is the best start.