We don’t get to see worms too often in our front yard. For a while, Southern California was in a drought, and rain was a luxury we didn’t have. But this winter was generous beyond our expectations and sated the ground of its thirst, bringing with it the worms we don’t often get to see.
My son found one one afternoon while playing on the grass. It was the biggest worm he’d ever seen, and delight was written all over his face. The morning dew had dissipated into the heat of the noon sun, and the worm tediously inched its way to the cool dirt underneath. It was vulnerable, exposed.
My son, ever the empathetic one, crouched over the worm like a hen hovering over her chicks. He provided it with shade and water from his water bottle so it could make its way underground safely. His cheeks were flushed, his hair matted with sweat, but the worm made it in time before the sun dried it out.
I watched my son with curiosity as he patiently nurtured his little worm friend. He was attentive, protective, and I wondered if that’s how God sees me.
I grew up thinking God was good and loving and holy, but stern. I would imagine Him looking at me from on high with a perpetual, thin-lipped frown on His face and furrowed brows. He’d be watching me live my life, making decisions He didn’t approve of and choosing paths He hadn’t chosen for me, and disappointment would etch grooves across His divine forehead. His eyes would look tired, like a mom who had been up all night with her baby, not knowing the time or the day anymore.
He loved me — this I knew. But happy with me? Pleased with me? Unlikely.
I saw Him this way for most of my life, and it was evident of the kind of parental love I received as a kid. I was the one who always got in trouble, the one who never seemed to do anything right the first time around. I exasperated my parents, and though I knew God was unlike them, my parents’ love for me still shaped the way I believed God loved me.
I didn’t doubt He cared for me, but the narrative of conditional love ran hard through my veins, convincing me I was likely doing something wrong most of the time, that I was in trouble and about to face God’s grace running out on me, His patience thinning, His love faltering.
God is unlike us in so many ways, but He gives us glimpses of Himself through each other. I saw Him in that moment while my son watched over the worm, tending to it, nurturing it, and I understood visually what Psalm 63:7 meant:
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Just like the worm hidden in the shade of my son’s shadow, I am like it, hidden in the shadow of my Father’s wings. He is good, loving, holy, and motherly. Yes, He disciplines. Yes, He rebukes. Yes, sometimes His ways seem stern and unclear. But He is the perfect parent, the perfect father and mother.
God loves steadily and without conditions. His love doesn’t fade in and out based on my behavior or how many good deeds I can check off my list. He doesn’t roll His eyes at my ignorance, at my foolishness, or at my resistance to His voice. His grace doesn’t run out.
I imagine His face now, and it looks different to me — the grooves on His forehead are relaxed, His eyes no longer tired and disappointed but soft with love. I’m learning to nurture and be nurtured, to mother and be mothered by a God does it perfectly. He is the one who provides the shade, the help, and I am held, I am loved, I am free to sing in the shadow of His wings.