THE TAKE AWAY
By Kersley Fitzgerald
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14From the annals of the more amusing and obscure science/theology metaphors comes research that finds earthworms in crisis are more effective.
The Journal of Animal Ecology recently released a study analyzing how the dynamics of earthworms and the beetles who call them lunch affect the local flora in Tibet. Although many species prey on earthworms, only a few can reach the worms in their natural habitat—under a surface layer of organic detritus and yak dung patties. When the beetle population is great, the earthworms dig deeper into the ground to escape the undesirable fate of being dragged to the surface and eaten.
Results: the presence of beetles did not significantly alter the population of earthworms. But it did affect where the larger earthworms lived. The beetles drove 45% of the worms deeper underground—as far as 30 cm. As a result, the soil changed. In the area devoid of beetles, the ground cover contained less dead plant material. In the area containing beetles, there was more plant material up top (the yak poo content remained the same), but down below, there was more aeration in the soil, more water, and more organic material. As a result of the more nutritious lower soil layers, the plants growing in the area appropriated by beetles grew 20% larger than the soil supplied with only earthworms.
Earthworms and beetles in an epic battle over Tibetan yak-dung fields have no direct spiritual message for us. But by using the ancient art of metaphor, we can extrapolate a parallel meaning. When the earthworms of Christianity are plagued by the persecution of the beetles of the pagan world, we have two choices: stay in the shallow dung-patties or dig deep into the hard soil of the fallen culture. There is a need for warriors on the surface. Those who poke holes through the…arguments of the world. But if we stay there, we will be consumed. We also need to dig deep. The road will be harder, and the delicacies of the world more rare. But we will find protection from the ravenous beetles that threaten us—and change our environment more thoroughly. We will let the fresh air of God's word and the clean water of the Holy Spirit reach the roots of our environment, washing in the nutrients of truth trapped in the topsoil, resulting in a fertile foundation on which our culture can grow towards the sun. And grow it will, rising above the battle raging below about 20% more than if the threat had never come.
Well, maybe not exactly 20%...
All to say, God gives us trials because we will be more effective when we have to dig deep into His Word and His love. If we stay at the surface of things, we're easy pickin's. If we try to fight the culture at the surface, we will do some good—we will get through some of the dung and decaying plant material to give nutrients to the surface roots. But if we allow persecution to drive us into the deeper, harder areas of God's Kingdom—into the core issues of love and death and a battle not against flesh and blood—our impact will be even greater.
There is need for worms at every level of the culture. And some of us, like the smaller earthworms, do not have the energy or the power to dig deep. But we should all aspire to be Christian worms that aren't afraid of the hard work of the Gospel.
We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm. Winston Churchill
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