I Am But a Worm (part-2)

— by Andy Wade —

In my last post I mentioned the amazing restorative possibilities of the lowly worm. There is a Worm Theology that is quite old. In the presence of God, I am nothing but a worm. There’s been a diversity of thought about how this plays out, from “ pity-poor me” to “without Christ I am nothing”. My “worm theology” is a bit different.

We’re all probably familiar with at least part of Psalm 22 which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words, echoed by Jesus from the cross, etch on our soul the ache of total abandonment. Other words from this Psalm play out in the crucifixion scene including, “But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;” Ps. 22:6-7

The spiritual irony is thick as Jesus is scorned, despised, mocked, and dismissed. The word Hebrew word “worm” used in Psalm 22 is ‘towla‘, a scarlet worm or grub which attaches itself to a tree, lays its eggs, and dies. As it dies it stains the tree red, a stain that was frequently used in ancient times to dye clothing.

While you’re chewing on that, let me return to the garden and the lowly earthworm. My generation was taught that to grow a big crop you needed heavy doses of chemical fertilizers followed by the abundant and frequent application of pesticides. Industrial agriculture was dawning and it’s deadly toxins were trickling down to the home gardener.

At first it yielded great results. But productivity both on industrial farms and at home have dropped while problems with pests have increased. We were basically killing the microcosm of the soil, then artificially feeding it. Over the years we’ve begun to realize the dramatic destruction our modern farming practices are causing including a massive loss of topsoil. Why does that matter? Well, it may be pushing us into a global food crisis by the middle of this century!

Our soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate it can be replenished, and our food production systems are to blame, which epitomizes the term “unsustainable.” It takes decades or even centuries to regenerate significant levels of soil. (Restoring soil health)

But it’s not just topsoil we need to be concerned about:

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of our fresh water use. When the soil is unfit, water is wasted – it washes right through the soil and past the plant’s root system. We already have a global water shortage that’s projected to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years, so this is the last thing we need. Soil degradation is projected to cause a 30 percent loss in food production over the next 20 to 50 years – while our global food demands are expected to increase by 50 percent over this span of time. Mercola

This is not how nature was created to work. We thought we discovered a better way to grow food than God. Now we’re learning, often the hard way, that our way leads to polluted ground water, over-watering, the destruction of top-soil, and serious health issues. And yet, if we’re willing to change, we can find redemption in the lowly worm. (you knew I was getting back to that, right?). Worms, it turns out, may hold the secret to not only reversing this trend, but redeeming soil already devastated by years of mistreatment.

“Worms were said to be Darwin’s favorite organism, and for good reason: it seems they can break down most anything. Studies have shown they can detoxify soil with cadmium, lead and other heavy metals.” New York Times – Science

And vermicomposting is proving to be a sustainable and extremely effective alternative to chemical fertilizers. Not only can it help restore soil, used in place of synthetic chemicals, vermicastings are proving to be a healthier, safer method of starting plants from seed. (See Cornell University video below)

For now, allow me to end as I began (part 1), “What a lowly and despised animal, the worm. Oh that I could live into it’s virtues!”

Lord, help me to see your redeeming work in all creation
revive the soil of my soul with your life-giving presence
help me to be one conduit of your restoring grace,
bringing your healing and wholeness to the world around me. Amen.