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Chlorophyllum rhacodes (Shaggy Parasol) growing in the decaying leaves and moldering twigs in Oaxaca, Mexico

We have gotten a lot more rain than usual here at the children’s home in Oaxaca, Mexico. Everything is nice and green and mushrooms of different shapes, sizes and colors are popping up all over the place, some as big as a dinner plates. I find them fascinating and have been doing some research on them. I have come to the conclusion that Christians are a lot like mushrooms, at least in two respects.

One thing I learned is that mushrooms grow best in places that are wet or really damp. We have received more rain this last June and now into July than I can ever remember in my 16 years of living here. So that explains the surge in ‘shrooms. They grow especially good in dead, decaying and moldering matter, like old leaves and sticks, exactly the place I found Old Shaggy, pictured above.

Christians actually grow and even thrive in exactly the same kind of environment. The Bible describes this world and its systems as dead, decaying and moldering. Yet Christianity, as the proverbial mustard seed, has been growing like crazy, not just in spite of pain, suffering and persecution, but because of it. Throughout the centuries different cultures and regimes have been trying to systematically snuff Christianity out, and yet it has grown into the largest religion on the planet.

I read an article recently in Christianity Today about how, in the past, the missionaries were kicked out of China, and church leaders feared for the future of the church in that country. Not to worry. Christianity grew from a few thousand believers to millions of believers within the following generations. Now it seems the same thing is probably occurring in North Korea; an expanding underground church amidst the worlds worst persecution of the church.

But not only the Church Universal grows amongst the death and decay of the world, but so do individual Christians. We all experience times of trials and tribulation, sorrow and suffering, frustration and failure. These are times of rotting leaves, moldy twigs and decaying branches. Times where we not only grow, but flourish. With these kind of experiences I think of Joseph and all he had to endure during his life. Sold by jealous, spiteful brothers into slavery. Falsely accused of a capital crime and tossed into prison. Forgotten by a fellow inmate he had helped out, he languished in jail. And then what? Next thing you know, he is second in command in the most powerful empire in the world.

When those same brothers came to him begging for food, he could have extracted sweet revenge, but instead he told them, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He was able to say that because over and over Genesis reminds us that God was with Joseph. God is still in the “making good out of evil” business as we can plainly see in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God…” Even those decaying, moldering things.

The second way I see that Christians are like mushrooms is mycelia. I learned about mycelia from Emma Erler who is a landscape and greenhouse specialist at the University of New Hampshire. She writes, “Mushrooms will go away on their own once the weather dries out. Keep in mind that although these fruiting bodies have disappeared, the fungal mycelia is still growing in the soil. The fungus will continue to grow and persist as long as there is plenty of organic matter to feed upon.”

I found that to be very interesting. Mushrooms are only the fruit of a much vaster, invisible fungus network that lives underground. When the mushroom dies, the plant continues to live and grow and have its being. That makes me think of all the Christians who have died, yet a part of them continues to live and influence us who are living. I especially think of Christian writers from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Stott and C.S. Lewis, to name just a few. They are all dead, but their ideas, theology and insights continue to live and spread through the world with their words, just like mycelia.

So, if anyone should happen to tell you that you remind them of a mushroom, take it as a compliment. You are growing strong through the murky mire of decay; the stench and darkness of this present world, because God is with you, just as he was with Joseph. And, after you are gone to be with the Father, your mycelia, your love, grace, compassion and kindness will continue to live on in all those you cared about and helped.

Mushrooms and Christians. Who knew?

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