What can a mushroom teach us about God?
The building I work in has rows of peace lilies and palms growing indoors. It’s a beautiful part of the building, a conference center, full of natural light and open space. There’s a caretaker who, twice a week or so, tends to the plants, watering them, trimming away dead leaves, et cetera. One day, though, I noticed he missed a sizable mushroom:
At first, I didn’t think much of it, but as I walked away, it stuck with me. I came to the conclusion that it had to be symbolic of something. When I notice something strange, usually it turns out to be my brain trying to work something out. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my current struggle with my understanding of the Divine was, apparently, manifesting itself in an unexpected fungus.
I pondered it over the next couple weeks, and found that there are, in fact, several things that a mushroom (well, this particular one) can teach us about the Divine:
- God is sneaky. Maybe subtle is a better word. Despite what some of the Scriptures say, I find that the Divine usually shows up unnoticed in ordinary places. We meet Her in the kindness of a stranger, in the beauty of a still morning, in a late night conversation over bad diner coffee. We have to really pay attention, really listen, or we just might miss Her.
- God doesn’t always look like God. This is a fungus. Growing on a lily. That’s pretty much the reverse of what we would usually expect of the Divine. But, prostitutes and tax collectors, right? Sometimes She’s a fungus.
- God grows from the bottom up. Forget descending from the clouds. God does not function in a trickle-down method. Look at the (metaphorical and literal) ground beneath your feet.
- God will show up regardless of whether or not we invite Her. God does not need us to bring Her anywhere. She is, in fact, independent of us, so we can stop worrying about “bringing God to (fill in the blank).” In fact, we’re often doing the opposite–taking Her out of places because She doesn’t look like what we expect Her to look like.
- God is persistent. Have you ever tried to get rid of any kind of fungus? I’ve been trying to get mildew off my bathroom window for MONTHS. That stuff doesn’t go away easy. She’ll keep showing up until we get the point. Which we haven’t yet, because points 1-4.
- God is a lot bigger and more complex than She looks. Mushrooms mostly grow underground–what shows up on the surface is the reproductive part of the fungus. Consider that there is so much about the Divine that we have never and will never understand, and our attempts to define Her and box Her in are pretty pointless. Hence the abundance of metaphor in various Scriptures.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, I have in fact realized that I’m 500 words into a completely ridiculous argument that God is a mushroom. Weirder things have been said.
Did this divine fungus change my life? No. Not really. I mean, these are not new revelations. This has all been said before. But, perhaps, there’s one thing we can take away from the God-mushroom: