Falling, to a Starfish

By Laurel Droz

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!  Job 26:14

Sometimes things happen that defy understanding. Things like finding a worm in the snow.

It seemed so out of place and I couldn’t imagine how it came to be there. Struggling on top of a melting pile of snow, far from the warm earth it was meant for. I tried to think of how it came to be there as it wriggled against the cold. Maybe a bird had dropped it or perhaps it had just found itself wildly off course. As I watched it writhing I thought about something I always tell my kids: when you can show kindness, when you can extend mercy, do it. Even if maybe it won’t matter. Because maybe it will. In some ways maybe it always does.

So, while I know most people wouldn’t pause to help the worm, I did. I placed it wriggling in my palm and found a place with earth exposed. With my free hand I dug into the dirt and placed the tiny squirming creature inside, gently covering it again. And I don’t know what became of it after that, only that on that day I tried to help a snow worm.

I didn’t think of the snow worm again for a long time. But one day I was talking to a friend who was struggling and was questioning where God was in this hardship. And suddenly I thought of the snow worm.

To the worm, none of the events of that day made sense. It was just there, doing its worm thing, an suddenly through some unfortunate series of events it found itself on a snow pile where no worm ought to be. And then I, a giant to a worm, appeared and picked it up. And though I had kind intentions, the worm couldn’t understand that. It doesn’t have the capability for that kind of perspective, so to the worm this was still more calamity. Then it was placed in a destination entirely separate from where it began. Although it probably felt whatever vague sense of “oh cool, maybe I’m not going to die, time to focus on being a worm again” that such a simple organism can feel, it never would or could conceptualize my role in that.

Maybe God is like that.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are upsetting or even downright terrifying and we feel that our lives are as far off course as a worm in the snow. And then even more stuff piles on and it’s easy to say “where is God now?” Maybe God is just putting you right back exactly where you need to be, but we can’t see that because in this scenario we’re kind of, well, worms.

Maybe snow worms aren’t your thing, so I’ll tell you one more story, one my dad told me long ago, one you have maybe heard yourself: Once there was an old man walking along the ocean shore and noticing all the starfish that had been washed up by the tide and left stranded on the sand. Further down the shore he saw a young girl flinging starfish back into the water. He approached her and asked what she was doing. “These starfish will dry up and die when the sun comes up, so I’m saving them,” the girl said, throwing another starfish. “Look at the beach,” the old man replied, “there are hundreds of them. There is not way to save them all. What you’re doing won’t make any difference!” The young girl looked at him, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “Made a difference for that one,” she said.

Nice, right? Except, think of it instead from the perspective of the starfish. It doesn’t understand, it CAN’T understand, that it has landed in a dangerous place it should not be and is being redirected someplace better. It just knows it’s suddenly hurtling through the air and then falling.

Sometimes things happen that defy explanation. Sometimes life feels much as falling might to a starfish.

But just because we don’t understand, CAN’T understand, doesn’t mean that we aren’t still being tended too or that God is absent in the scenario. Maybe it just means that in that moment we are very small and can’t fathom something so big. Sometimes, maybe, we are just a snow worm or a stranded starfish, and this latest calamity is instead the very thing needed to get us safely back to exactly where we ought to be.