Spring is here! I love the smell of freshly churned dirt still cool from its winter sleep, just waiting to burst forth with new growth. And of course, it’s always nice to see the gardener’s friend, a true sign of quality soil: the earthworm.
Earthworms are fascinating. Unlike most other similarly squishy creatures, earthworms have no exoskeleton. They can’t tuck into a shell like a snail or a turtle. They can’t seal themselves up like a clam. They can’t lash out with armored pinchers like a lobster. They don’t even have tough enough skin to protect them from the sun. An hour on the beach and they wouldn’t just be sunburned, they’d be desiccated. Earthworms are essentially long strings of moving squishiness. How on earth do earthworms survive??
The answer, of course, is that God has given earthworms a different kind of exoskeleton. Earthworms don’t cart around a shell, because God has given the earthworm a vast “exoskeleton” of moist, cool earth. Within this protective environment, the earthworm works at the soil, digesting and depositing nutrients and aerating it with his squirming tunnels.
Unlike the earthworm, we have a skeleton. But the fact is, our outsides are still pretty squishy. We, too, cannot crawl into a shell or wield scaly armor to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, this is as true spiritually as it is physically. Fortunately, God has specifically prepared an environmental exoskeleton for us, just like he did for the earthworm. Paul writes of this exoskeleton when he urges us to: Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11).
You see, God provides for the earthworm, and he provides for us too. By ourselves, we are not much stronger than a squishy earthworm, but we are not by ourselves! God has given us “full armor.” And not just any armor; it is His armor: the “full armor of God.”
Paul explains further what this armor looks like in Ephesians 6:14-17. It is truth buckled around our waist. It is righteousness fastened over our chest. It is peace and readiness fitted to our feet. It is faith as our shield, which will extinguish every flaming arrow hurled at us by the devil. It is salvation secured to our head like a helmet. It is the very Spirit of God in the form of His word, the Bible, which can be used like a sword against any harmful thing that comes against us. This is no turtle shell; this is the armor of God!
But just as the earthworm has to work at his environment by churning through the soil, so we have to work at our environment. We need to continually develop our understanding of God’s truth, righteousness, peace, and salvation. We need to practice our faith so it develops and we need to endure its testing so that it is strengthened (remember our “faith immune system?”) We need to read God’s Word so that we can hold it at the ready, as one would hold a sword. We wouldn’t pick up a sword for the first time and go into battle, and neither should we wait until a time of need to first pick up the Bible. We need to take care of our exoskeleton now.
As we care for the exoskeleton God has provided us, we also need to keep in mind one of Paul’s final exhortations on the matter: Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). In other words, we need to talk to God. Often. And we need to lift ourselves and each other up in prayer. Though we may be squishy, God has given us the greatest exoskeleton of all: His armor.
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge (Psalm 16:1).