Worm Trails

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by: Scott Little

01/13/2021

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     You’ve probably noticed that during heavy rains, earthworms come out of underground hiding and show up on sidewalks and driveways in mass numbers. I don’t know why they do this, though I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. 

     Once the rain stops and the sun comes out, most of the worms will have made their way back underground, although you can usually find a few brittle, shrunken strings scattered around, the bodies of the unfortunate few that didn’t make it back underground, laying lifeless on the drying concrete.  

     If you’ve ever gone for a walk after a heavy rain, when the sun comes out and the sidewalks start to warm, you’ll notice shimmering silvery trails criss-crossing the cement – the telltale sign of the earthworms’ earlier migration. The trails are what’s left behind by the sticky, slimy residue that coats an earthworm’s body. It’s part of the worm’s physical makeup, part of its “essence”, and without it, an earthworm can’t live.   

     It might sound strange, but seeing worm trails on pavement long after the worms have gone makes me think about my spiritual life. Weird, right (and a little gross)? But whenever I see worm trails, it makes me wonder if the likeness of Jesus, if the residue of the Holy Spirit’s presence is such an essential part of me that I leave a “grace trail” behind wherever I go? Does the “aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15) linger a little while in the places I’ve been, among the people I meet, the way worm trails linger after the worm has gone back underground? I’m afraid that if I’m honest, the answer is “not very often” – and that’s probably being generous.

     What does it take to leave the residue of Jesus behind wherever you go? Earthworms give us a clue. Worms only leave those shiny silver trails behind because they’ve been immersed in the soil. If they start to dry out, they stop secreting their sticky coating. That’s why worms shrivel up and die when they venture too far from the soil after the rain – the skies clear up, the sun comes out, and a worm that was kept damp in the earth suddenly finds itself in the middle of a concrete desert. If it’s unable to immerse itself in the soil again, the worm will dry out and lose not only the ability to leave a trail, but its very life. 

     Failure to leave signs of the Lord’s presence where I’ve passed by is most often caused by not staying as deeply immersed in and connected to Him as I could be. I can’t produce grace and love by effort alone, any more than a worm can secrete its coating by trying hard. But if a worm stays immersed in the soil, it can’t help but leave a residue wherever it goes. 

     In the same way, I need immersion in the Lord’s presence constantly and repeatedly, through Scripture, prayer, worship, and fellowship. The closer I walk with Jesus, the more likely I’ll be to leave silvery touches of grace and love, however faint they may be, wherever I go, with every person I meet. People may not always recognize the trail, but I want to leave it, because I never know when the Son will shine on them and they’ll see the shimmering evidence of His love for them in the residue of their encounter with me.  

     You’ve probably noticed that during heavy rains, earthworms come out of underground hiding and show up on sidewalks and driveways in mass numbers. I don’t know why they do this, though I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. 

     Once the rain stops and the sun comes out, most of the worms will have made their way back underground, although you can usually find a few brittle, shrunken strings scattered around, the bodies of the unfortunate few that didn’t make it back underground, laying lifeless on the drying concrete.  

     If you’ve ever gone for a walk after a heavy rain, when the sun comes out and the sidewalks start to warm, you’ll notice shimmering silvery trails criss-crossing the cement – the telltale sign of the earthworms’ earlier migration. The trails are what’s left behind by the sticky, slimy residue that coats an earthworm’s body. It’s part of the worm’s physical makeup, part of its “essence”, and without it, an earthworm can’t live.   

     It might sound strange, but seeing worm trails on pavement long after the worms have gone makes me think about my spiritual life. Weird, right (and a little gross)? But whenever I see worm trails, it makes me wonder if the likeness of Jesus, if the residue of the Holy Spirit’s presence is such an essential part of me that I leave a “grace trail” behind wherever I go? Does the “aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15) linger a little while in the places I’ve been, among the people I meet, the way worm trails linger after the worm has gone back underground? I’m afraid that if I’m honest, the answer is “not very often” – and that’s probably being generous.

     What does it take to leave the residue of Jesus behind wherever you go? Earthworms give us a clue. Worms only leave those shiny silver trails behind because they’ve been immersed in the soil. If they start to dry out, they stop secreting their sticky coating. That’s why worms shrivel up and die when they venture too far from the soil after the rain – the skies clear up, the sun comes out, and a worm that was kept damp in the earth suddenly finds itself in the middle of a concrete desert. If it’s unable to immerse itself in the soil again, the worm will dry out and lose not only the ability to leave a trail, but its very life. 

     Failure to leave signs of the Lord’s presence where I’ve passed by is most often caused by not staying as deeply immersed in and connected to Him as I could be. I can’t produce grace and love by effort alone, any more than a worm can secrete its coating by trying hard. But if a worm stays immersed in the soil, it can’t help but leave a residue wherever it goes. 

     In the same way, I need immersion in the Lord’s presence constantly and repeatedly, through Scripture, prayer, worship, and fellowship. The closer I walk with Jesus, the more likely I’ll be to leave silvery touches of grace and love, however faint they may be, wherever I go, with every person I meet. People may not always recognize the trail, but I want to leave it, because I never know when the Son will shine on them and they’ll see the shimmering evidence of His love for them in the residue of their encounter with me.  
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