"For such a worm as I…"

As a young boy, I recall vividly standing in the church service, hymnal open, singing the song, “At the Cross”. I know that for many churches and Christians, hymns and hymnals have gone the way of the dinosaur, but just this morning my memory and consequently my perspective were renewed as my mind flashed back to these words, originally written by Isaac Watts:

Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Newer hymnals and versions have taken out the word “worm” and have replaced it with “sinner” and some even with “For such a one as I?” That’s really too bad, and at the bus stop this morning, I was reminded of a profound truth.

My daughter Macy is the consumate performer. She lives her life on stage and doesn’t care who’s in the audience. She is constantly singing, dancing, strutting, joking, and anything else that might entertain anyone who might be watching, even if the only one watching is the 6 year old in the mirror. And I had thought that this had really “girly-ized” her. But recently, she has taken on a new role: Savior of Worms.

Its been raining quite a lot recently, and you know what happens when it rains: our driveways, streets, and curbs are awash with struggling, squiggling, slippery worms. And Macy has taken it upon herself to save as many of them as she can. She’s the only girl at her bus stop, and not one boy will touch a worm. Yet Macy, in her concern for their lives, faithfully stoops down, gives each one a gentle touch to see if its still alive, and if so picks up its wriggling body and tosses it back into the grass so it can find the soil again.

The reason why the word “worm” was removed from Isaac Watt’s hymn is unclear. However, I’d suppose that it has something to do with comfort. The image of a worm in our minds is not something most of us wake up with, and not something we tend to want to dwell on. But I suppose that’s precisely why the word should be left in that song, and as a result in our theology. A good friend and fellow pastor Scott Marshall put it succinctly, “We get our theology from our hymns.” And so as a young boy, taught the song “At the Cross”, I was also taught that before the holiness of God I am exactly (if not worse) that writhing, wriggling, wiggling worm–hopeless and helpless until the Savior came and put me back into a place of redemption and salvation. Had he not, well, I’d be dried up and dead.

So standing at the bus stop this morning watching my daughter go from one worm to the next, I was reminded of that childhood hymn and how it really has shaped my view of my sinfulness and worthlessness in light of God’s holiness. Despite the disparity between our two conditions, He reached down, picked me up off the pavement of sin and death, and restored me to life, hope, peace, and joy.

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