Lessons from an Earthworm

This morning I was jogging when I noticed an earthworm wriggling on the side of the road, surrounded by concrete and asphalt. As it thrashed about on the hard, hot surface it became more and more encrusted with bits of sand.

I looked down with compassion on this little creature struggling to move but getting nowhere, and realized it had 3 options: 1) a quick death my being run over by a car, 2) a slow death by being baked alive, or 3) a medium death if a bird found it and fed it to her babies.

But, there was another option. I could step in, pick him up, and take him to the grassy side of the road, about 6 feet away. That might not sound far, but it would have required the worm to squirm in the right direction, then somehow climb up a concrete curb, and finally travel across a concrete sidewalk. I didn’t see how that could possibly happen.

It’s important to note here that I don’t entirely like picking up earthworms, but at least I’m not afraid of them. You can’t really be a gardener and not handle the occasional worm. So, I reached down and grabbed him with my bare hands. What a struggle we had!

He flayed about with all his might, trying to escape my grasp. Do earthworms pee in their pants? I think this one peed in my hand as he frantically tried to escape. I held on and eventually tossed him over to the grassy spot on the side of the woods. He continued to fight for a while until he realized he was exactly where he needed to be. He was safe!

Incidentally (but not coincidentally I believe) my morning devotional had been based on the story in Genesis 32:24-30, where Jacob struggles with an Angel of God. They have a long fight until finally the Angel or “Man” merely touches Jacob’s thigh and knocks it out of joint. Still, Jacob hangs on and says he will not let go until he receives a blessing. (Don’t forget that Jacob already received his father’s blessing by deceiving him. The name Jacob actually means “deceiver.”)

The Angel of God gives Jacob the blessing, changes his name to “God fights for” and tells Jacob that he, Jacob has prevailed. This has always been an odd story and one that I just didn’t get. However, this earthworm really helped me understand, along with my devotional of course.

God had chosen to bless Jacob, but Jacob first needed to submit himself to God’s will. It was only by struggling, recognizing his weakness, then receiving his blessing that he prevailed. He won the fight that God wanted him to win!

My little earthworm found himself in dire straits. There was seemingly no escape. Suddenly a strange force (my hand) grabbed him, and he fought valiantly. Even when I tossed him in green pastures, he continued to fight until he calmed down enough to recognize that his circumstances had changed. He was now in a cool, sweet place that was exactly what he needed. He burrowed down and made his way into the depths of the soil.

I don’t know how or what earthworms think. I suppose he might believe that fate tossed him on the grass, or that a scientific anomaly was responsible. I doubt he saw or recognized that my hand was involved. He might not even believe I exist. He might at this moment be telling his friends that he fought with some strange and powerful being, but he prevailed and made his own way to safety without help from anyone!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not God! However, I am all too often the earthworm—or Jacob. I find myself struggling internally with God from time to time. I want to understand everything. I want it to all make sense. But finally, I become exhausted. I just have to give it a rest and accept that I am not God and not capable of fully understanding him because after all, I’m human. In that peaceful place, I become aware of how blessed I am. That’s exactly where God wants me to be, and that’s how I prevail.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desirevand achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:8-11 or read the whole chapter.

Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, originally published May 20, 2015