by Ralph F. Wilson
There's nothing more pathetic than a lost earthworm. Trust me. I know. My daughter Annie and I were walking down the long dirt road from our house to the street to pick up the paper Saturday morning when we spotted it.
The unlucky earthworm had crawled from the lush green grass at the edge onto the sandy surface of the road. You could trace his progress in the sand. He seemed headed across the road when he swerved. Maybe it was the slight rise and fall of the surface that threw him off, I don't know. But all at once he began to crawl in irregular circles. When we found him, the poor thing was thin and dry, covered with tiny grains of sand, in utter despair. Round and round he wriggled as the sun rose higher hastening the hour when his arch enemy--car tires--would find him naked and exposed. Swish, grind, and that would be all.
"Let's rescue him," I said to Annie. She gently lifted his grainy form from the road and deposited it gingerly in the safety of the tall grass at the side. What a way to begin a day. It makes you feel good deep inside to rescue a worm.
But there were others. Scores of others. Worm after hapless worm had made his way from the safety of the grass to the trackless desert of the road. Occasionally we'd find a fat, juicy worm just beginning his brave journey, blissfully unaware of the dangers ahead. Little did he know....
But we were there for them. I would look for the tell-tale circling track in the sand. "There's another," I would shout, and Annie would rush to the rescue site to lift yet another victim to safety. What would explain this great worm exodus? As we worked together as a finely-tuned mercy team, a theory began to unfold. There must have been some worm of a disk jockey on a late night station who had offered a prize for the worm who made it to the other side. That must be it!
But who would receive the prize? We began to look for that one worm winner who possessed that stamina, courage, and unerring sense of direction required for this daring expedition. Did this one make it, I would wonder as I traced his trail in the sand. No, here he starts to curve around. Invariably, one after another, the worms would lapse into circles, aimlessly crawling, going nowhere--rapidly at first, then slower and slower as their precious resources drained away.
We were almost back to the house when we found him, the worm who had bet against the odds and won. We traced his trail from one side of the road to the other. But no, he was within inches of the grass on the far side when he veered and began heading the wrong direction, back to where he came from, the "Wrong Way Carrigan" of the worm world.
I tell you no lie. It actually happened, though I can't vouch for the disk jockey part. But enough of grainy, bedraggled worms.
As Annie and I joked and rescued our way back to the house I thought of people I know. Where are we on our journey? Where are we going, anyway? Do we have a life goal, a destination, or are we just wandering?
A verse came to mind as I acted as chief worm-spotter: "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you" (Psalm 32:8). If only those worms had air support--someone with perspective to radio down their position--they could make it.
And I thought of how desperately we need a Guide to show us the way across, a Rescuer who will pick us up, hopeless and lost though we may be, and gently deposit us on the other side. "Rescuer," you know means about the same as "Savior." Jesus is that Rescuer. He knows the way.
Are you tired of going round in circles, fighting fatigue and the fear of being squashed flat? Lift your weary head one more time and utter a faint worm-prayer. And then watch for your Rescuer. Look up! Look up!
Illustration by Rex Bohn, for the article as it originally appeared in Sunday Digest, April 25, 1993.