145 Glowworms

By Claire Lin '23



12:36 p.m.


The room is dark, a bright purplish glow reflecting off the table. I wet my brush in a slide of water, and then lean forward, my eyes adjusting to the plate of life I see through the microscope.

I work in a fly lab at Brown. Every Monday, I breed a few dozen flies, place them in small cages with plenty of food, and hope that they are still young and healthy enough to mate and lay hundreds of eggs. Twenty-four hours later, I take the agar plates, and I count and sort the eggs on them, transferring them onto new plates so I can track their survival. The eggs themselves look like little pills with two antennae, and each plate has two genetically different types—some of the eggs will have the CyotwistGFP gene and therefore glow bright neon green in the purplish light; others will lack that gene and appear muddy-brown.


Today, my plate looks promising—huge clumps of bright green eggs are scattered throughout, and I begin sweeping and picking them up with my brush. They stick easily to the bristles.

**


1:36 p.m.


I’ve made a pile of 143 green eggs, ready for transfer. I do a final sweep of my plate for any stragglers; there’s one near the edge of the plate. But I forget how soft and gooey the agar is—it’s similar to slightly-melted grape-flavored jello, and when I accidentally push too hard on the egg with my brush, the egg sinks right into the agar. It’s submerged a quarter of a centimeter deep, just barely visible. I attempt to dig it out.


But my brush is too fat, my hands too clumsy—I only push the egg further and further into the agar. And by now, I’ve also excavated an ugly, ragged, gaping hole in the agar where the egg used to be. So two minutes into my rescue attempt, I give up. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps if I gave it another ten minutes it would be out—but right now, that egg is a lost cause, and I’ll just finish my experiment without it.


And if I really need it, I’ll just wait for it to hatch and crawl out of its hole tomorrow.

**


At some point, haven’t we all been that egg? Trapped and lost by the pressures of the world—we don’t know if there’s a way out, and even if there was, we don’t know if we’re capable of making it out by ourselves.


But lucky for us, we don’t have to.


I once met a shepherd in charge of 100 sheep, who—when He found out that one had wandered off to a place where it didn’t know how to return to safety from—left the remaining 99 to find that lost one. He scaled steep mountains, crossed dangerous rivers, and traveled countless miles just to search for that one beloved and irreplaceable sheep. And although it took a while, He finally found it, and then He carried it tenderly on His shoulders back home.


God is this wonderful, unrelenting Shepherd (Luke 15:3-7, NIV). No matter where we are, He never stops seeking after us. He knows we’re so prone to wander, to getting lost, to running away, but still He chases after us, for as long as it takes.


Eventually, we get so tired of running. The desperation, the loneliness, the fear, and the shame that we try so hard to hide and fail to fight by ourselves—we are no different from that egg buried hopelessly deep in an uncertain place. Yet when we finally stop and just wait for God, God doesn’t expect us to find our own way back to Him; He comes to us instead.


For the One who searches for us and rescues us has infinitely more patience, infinitely more perseverance, than I did for that egg. It may take months, years, even decades—but He will never give up.


All God wants to do is meet us right where we are, brush away all of the burdens that He already conquered on the cross 2000 years ago, and wrap us in His everlasting love. And then He lifts us and carries us on His shoulders (Deuteronomy 33:12), just like how a father does to his beloved child when he wants to show them the fireworks from the very best point-of-view.

**


1:45 p.m.

Some of the eggs in the plate have hatched already—larvae resembling tiny glowworms are squirming and wiggling around. For such tiny creatures, they move incredibly fast. They’re also incredibly annoying: one in particular keeps crawling into my carefully partitioned pile of 143 eggs. I’m worried that once it gets too deep inside, it won’t be able to escape the entanglement. But no matter how many times I drag the larva away to the other side of the plate with my brush, it always comes crawling right back, and maintaining a pure sample is more difficult than it should be.


Irritated, I pick up the larva, find the hole I excavated earlier, and firmly shove it right inside. Problem solved: it won’t be leaving anytime soon.

**


In the same way, we are like this one larva too: even though we know better, we still run back towards the things that we know can hurt us and that we should avoid. But instead of being irritated with us, God once again pursues us, correcting and disciplining us to keep us from making those same mistakes again. We find ourselves being placed in situations where we can’t move until we’ve learned our lesson, and we come to see how God has been doing everything out of His love and delight for us (Proverbs 3:12).


In high school, I struggled a lot with pride. Academics came easily to me; I understood all the material quickly, barely had to study, and got good grades. And seeing how much my friends stressed out about school, I became really proud of my own intellect: even though I grew up being taught that this was all from God—and more importantly, that I should place everything, including my schoolwork, into God’s hands—I was perfectly content relying on my own abilities, and I didn’t feel the need to bring this part of my life to God.


And then I took an AP Physics class.


I was absolutely terrible at physics. A third of the semester in, I had scored the lowest test grade out of all thirty students, and my grades were so bad that I was failing the class. I had no idea what I was learning, the textbook made no sense, and I couldn’t complete my homework problems without the help of an online answer key—in just six weeks, my pride, my grades, and I had been shoved down a deep, deep hole.


The night that my exam grade came out, I came upon this verse during my devotions:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna.

(Deuteronomy 8:3)


My borderline D/C- definitely humbled me. But I wasn’t hungry yet. Desperately clinging onto my last ounce of pride, I was still convinced that I could fix my grades on my own, and I refused to ask God for help. All those simple requests I grew up learning to pray for ever since elementary school: understanding the material more clearly, having peace while test-taking, being able to remember all the concepts I learned—I brought none of them to God. Instead, I spent hundreds of hours studying, taking practice exams, and watching Khan Academy videos by myself. Yet two weeks before my next exam, I still didn’t understand physics any more than I did when I scored 40% on my first test.


Okay, so maybe I really couldn’t do this on my own. Was this God’s way of teaching me to truly humble myself, to acknowledge this hunger and my need for Him? And was relying on God really a sign of defeat like I believed it was?


This whole time, God was telling me: “Don’t you know that blessed is the one who trusts in me (Jeremiah 17:7)? My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect even in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So it’s okay if you’re struggling to understand physics. Just do your part, and commit the rest to me. I’m ready to feed you with manna, but are you ready to collect it?”


This time, I was.


In my hunger and desperation and frustration, God fed me so abundantly with manna. To get an A in the class, I needed to score 100% on my next two exams, which would have been impossible on my own. And to this day, I have no idea how that happened, because I still barely understand physics—all I know is that when I finally committed it all to God, He worked nothing short of a miracle.


God had been chasing me for 11 years to learn to let go of that pride and to trust Him with the things I hold dear. So now that I’m in college, I’ve learned to humbly accept God’s work in my life. Even when I feel confident in my academics, I still turn to God for every exam and every grade, because God has taught me to trust that He is faithful to all that we commit to Him (2 Timothy 1:12).

**


Today, God’s unceasing love is pursuing you. So stop running away, and instead collect His manna. For though there may be 143 million—even 143 billion—other glowworms out there, God’s heart and affection are set on you.


Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me

Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me

With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now, I give You everything

Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.

(“Goodness of God”, Bethel Music)

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