Have you ever come across these words before?
They're among the lyrics to Isaac Watts' 1707 hymn, "At the Cross".
Alas! And did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred Head
For such a worm as I?
I've sung this hymn many a time, and am quite fond of it, though I have to admit that on occasion, the "worm" part has brought a smile to my lips. No disrespect intended, but you can tell this was written in an entirely different era, one in which people's view of themselves before God was probably much humbler than it is today; apparently, folks didn't take offense at being compared to worms in this hymn, which has now been sung by believers for over 300 years.
300 years is quite a stint for any piece of music, so this hymn's survival is more than noteworthy. But this longevity has not come without, shall we say, "modification".
The hymnal in our pews where I worship does include this song, but the "worm" lyric has been updated to read: "...for such a one as I..."
No more being compared to worms! I mean, really, who needs that? Rather insulting, don't you think? At the very least, pretty outdated.
Or, is it?
This hymn recently resurfaced in my mind after a heavy rain here in central Texas.
As often happens during a storm, several earthworms were driven out of the grass and out onto our concrete driveway, where they could be seen squirming and wriggling around, not exactly sure of what to do or where to go.
Needless to say, these earthworms face many dangers out on the driveway. They make easy prey for birds, they can be smashed under our tires, or they can simply shrivel up and die from lack of moisture once the sun comes back out and dries up all the rain.
It's a common sight to see the dried-up remains of venturesome earthworms who weren't fortunate enough to make it back to the grass after the rain.
On one of these occasions, I was moved with compassion for one of these squirmy creatures, and decided to intervene rather than let nature take its course.
Feeling rather magnanimous, I got down close to the ground and reached out toward the worm, gently attempting to pick it up between my thumb and index finger.
Boy, was I caught off guard by the reaction to my attempted rescue! I didn't even know worms could move like that!
That thing snapped into action the very second my skin touched his. This slow, poky worm suddenly began thrashing around, snapping back and forth, jumping off the ground, and just generally saying "No!" to my best efforts at salvation. It actually startled me, and if it had been a snake, I'm sure I would have been bitten. The worm's reaction was instant and adamant: He was not to be touched. He apparently had it all under control.
I had to laugh, but was also somewhat taken aback.
Here I was, the only being in this worm's little world with the power to save him, let alone the concern and compassion to even try, and he wasn't even willing to let me do it.
He would unwittingly choose death on his own terms rather than yield control of his situation to the power of the one who could save him from himself.
What was he thinking? What was Watts thinking?
Don't ever compare me to a creature like that.