We’ve recently had a vast outcropping of mushrooms on our back lawn. When a few first appeared, I thought it was a bit unusual, but figured they would disappear altogether after my husband mowed the lawn. Nope, exactly the opposite occurred. After mowing the lawn at least twice, after pulling them out with our hands, there are now a possible quadrupling of these little visitors. I’d guess they number at least twenty, and while they at first whimsically reminded me of childhood fairy tales featuring fairies and trolls, I can’t say that I look at them in the same fond way. Those mushrooms in my otherwise blemish-free green lawn are kind of unsightly actually. So, while trying to determine how we could eradicate these unwelcomed guests in our yard, guess what? I discovered they’re actually a good thing. Mushrooms indicate a yard that is rich in organic material that makes soil more productive.
Aha, so there it is, the blessing in disguise, the beauty beneath, the sublime under the surface. This discovery got me thinking about all the many things that lie beneath, those things the world might not notice, or not celebrate, or even worse, think are unsightly without actually realizing the unseen value.
I thought of many hidden gems:
- The beauty behind someone’s wrinkles, those lines that represent years of experience, laughter, sorrow.
- The beauty underneath our troubles, the hardships that grow us, strengthen us, give us the ability to understand others.
- The beauty behind the scenes, where people work hard, do whatever it takes to make a task or job come to completion, expecting nothing in return.
- The pain behind someone’s bad mood, unkind words, sad eyes.
- Perhaps my favorite – the people underneath us, who make us who we are.
It is that last one that I have particularly noticed recently, and it is possibly the reason why I look at those mushrooms differently now. Rather than see the unwanted mushroom, I remember what’s beneath it, the good that got it there.
This past Sunday, for example, was the rededication of my church after many months of renovation. What impacted me even more than the beautiful new pews and floors, the colorful lighting, the sparkling baptismal font, and the ever breathtaking stained glass, was the gathering of all those people, at one time, in this one place that has grounded me throughout my life.
Gathered there that day were literally people from just about every phase of my life, from my youth pastor, to my elementary school teachers, to the pastor who baptized me a second time as a preteen in addition to officiating my wedding and baptizing my children, to the fellow friends and coworkers and teachers, to my mom, and my daughter and my husband next to me, to the pastors I’ve worked with and learned from as an adult, to my current and former students and their families, to the familiar and new friendly faces. Every single one of them has done more for me than they probably even know. They have strengthened me, helped me, loved me; they have been the productive soil from which I could take root.
In 2 Corinthians 4:18, it says, “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal.” This church of many faces and many minds has nurtured in me the love of God. It may not be visible, but these people have been his hands, his heart, his words beneath me.
Today was the first day of chapel in the new sanctuary, and because it was a day when we invited alumni to visit and help serve, I was asked to acolyte. I’ll be honest, my first reaction was not one of excitement. Since I haven’t acolyted in almost 40 years as an 8th Grader, I had visions of either lighting this new beautiful sanctuary on fire, or standing up to the embarrassment of not being able to get the candle lit for minute, after minute, after minute, after minute, while everyone watched me struggle and eventually someone had to come help me. Or, what if I tripped? Dropped the offering trays? You know, all the dumb things you know are not going to happen, but you think of them anyway, that’s what my first thoughts were.
But then I thought of how awesome it would feel to be up there amongst my former students, those people who I have seen grow up into such incredible young teens and adults. What an honor to be there with them. And of course God wasn’t going to let me fail. He’s that unseen force and friend with me, the true soil from which I grow. So, of course, I had to do it.
I am so glad I did, and while none of what I possibly suspected to go wrong occurred, something I didn’t expect happened. As I stood at the altar, acolyting next to a former student and now fellow teacher, as I waited to turn around to gather the offering plates and thought of all the people behind me, all those people I love, I felt that same feeling I had on Sunday. I felt their love beneath me, and knew who it was from.
A group of former students sang one of my favorite songs, “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, and no one saw it, but I held back tears as I stood there, tears that certainly sprang from the unseen, yet beautiful love of God as I heard these words:
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found,
leaves the ninety-nine.
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending , reckless love of God.”
So now I look again at those mushrooms. How lovely they are, how beautiful they are, because of what lies beneath them.