“For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” Song of Songs 2:11-12 ESV
This past week, I have been thoroughly enjoying spring in Pennsylvania. Flanked by flowering dogwoods and daffodils waving hello, the warm sun puts a bounce in my step while walking in the neighborhood. The birds chirp happy songs making me want to click my heels in the air like Dick Van Dyke. Our little Jane Magnolia tree is blooming its blush velvet blossoms while the trees are budding out providing me with all kinds of creative inspiration. It is the season of new beginnings and fresh starts! But the circle of life dictates that for new life to continue, something must also die.
Just a few months ago, on a warmer-than-average February day, I was walking in one of my favorite parks praying about some situations weighing heavily on my mind. As I passed a wet spot on the pavement, I glanced down to see a dead earthworm. Barely registering the worm, I continued my walk when I felt God prompt me to go back and take a picture. I knew this had to be a heaven-sent thought for two reason. First, I am a terrible photographer, always ending up with blurry images. Second, if I am going to attempt to take a photo of something, it would be something a little more interesting, like a groundhog or a squirrel. As I was taking the picture, I heard a still small voice speak to me, “This worm is a reminder that winter is still here, but spring is coming. For spring to arrive, some things have to die for new life to be birthed and new ideas to bloom.”
For the past few days, I have been pondering about this dead earthworm, investigating its life cycle and attributes. This slimy invertebrate is a gardener’s favorite pet. Active in warm weather, an earthworm recycles organic material in the soil into nutrients. Her tunnel-making skills improve the soil structure, creating room for air, water, and plant roots. As temperatures cool, she will burrow beneath the frost line for the winter. Curling up into ball, she secretes a mucus to protect herself, before entering a hibernation state. Scientists have discovered that the protective mucus is full of nitrogen, making the soil around it fertile for plants. Likely, the warm temperatures in February awakened an instinct in this worm, causing her to peep above surface to begin her summer duties. Unfortunately, she probably got caught moving across the pavement during the night when the temperatures dropped again, dying a quick death. Despite her death, somewhere beneath the surface of the soil, she left behind eggs that will hatch in spring, carrying on her life-giving duties through future generations. In addition, as her body decomposes, it provides nutrients to the soil, where future plants can grow and thrive.
I have been transparent in previous posts that these past few years of my life have been tough. At times, I felt like I was being buried by various situations all stemming from areas of brokenness within me and those around me. I, like the earthworm, crawled beneath the surface of life to hibernate from the harshness of the bitter winter surrounding me. This hibernation led to isolation and depression. Fortunately, God is good, prompting me to spend time memorizing scripture in the heat of the trials. One year, during the toughest moments, I purposed in my heart to memorize 420 scriptures filled with truth. I would spend about an hour a day writing scripture on note cards, quoting the words, and studying the meanings. These anointed words of God created a protection around me, insulating me from the darts of the enemy manifested by shame, loneliness, and despair.
My spiritual winter has ended, just as it has on my calendar. But like the dead February earthworm, some things in my life need to die, including pride, bitterness, need for resolutions and control, and constant replaying of some trauma-inducing situations. Just like the living earthworm recycles in life, God used these tough situations to bring to surface areas in my life where I was relying on my own ability and strength. As the earthworm makes tunnels, my submission to the work God is doing in my life has created room for his Word and spirit to do a transformation in me. This, along with being a part of a life-affirming community rich in authenticity and truth, is allowing me to give birth to humility, wholeness, healing, empathy, and restoration!
In the Bible, Jonah left the city of Nineveh angry with God. Yet, God still had compassion on Jonah, providing him with a plant to shade him from the hot desert sun. The story gets interesting when the next morning, the Bible states In Jonah 4, “God prepared a worm that damaged the plant that it withered.” God did not stop there, but also created a strong wind “and the sun beat on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.” Jonah responded by exclaiming, “It is better for me to die than to live.” God then stepped in to address some areas in Jonah’s life, including his self-righteous attitude.
God allows the worm-like situations in our lives, not to destroy us, but to draw us closer to Him. What Jonah had determined to be a terrible situation, preaching to Nineveh, was salvation for over 120,000 people! Although my situations were tough, I believe that, in time, the testimonies of God’s mercy can provide hope for other people around me.
Today, in full-blown spring weather, I took a walk again in my favorite park. It had stormed the night before leaving the pavement wet, again. This time, I noticed fat, long earthworms everywhere, slipping and sliding across the sidewalk. The presence of the earthworms is an indication that the ground is ready to produce. Although I didn’t take any pictures, I did thank God for what He continues to do in my life, and the new life He is producing!