Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On Life and Mushrooms

A number of years ago we decided (with the help of a generous benefactor) to pave our long driveway, which was nothing but dirt and gravel and ruts. We watched as muscled men and machinery leveled out the drive and laid down a thick layer of asphalt, creating an actual road (though still a bit narrow and steep in places) leading up to our monastery church. We figured that now there would be fewer auto undercarriages wrecked by bouncing over our poor excuse for a driveway.

After a short time we noticed a rather disturbing phenomenon. The new road began bulging and cracking in a few places down by the gate, and we couldn’t figure out why. Some defect in materials or workmanship? We thought we’d just wait a little and see if it somehow corrected itself or got worse. It got worse. Suspense was mounting as we watched those areas of the driveway rise and crack. Finally the mystery was solved, and we discovered the irresistible force that broke through the road: mushrooms!

Being monks, we didn’t get indignant at the audacity of those inconsiderate fungi, but rather took the opportunity to reflect on the mystery. I, for one, was struck by the irrepressible vital energy of life. It may sound redundant to say that life must live, but it will simply not be thwarted. Even mushrooms do not find an asphalt road an obstacle to fulfilling their God-given mandate to live and thrive. Blades of grass crack sidewalks, tiny wildflowers grow out of rocks and barren clay. Animals and human beings often survive in all kinds of impossible conditions. Everything struggles, instinctively if not consciously, to live. Life will not be denied, for life is of God, the Creator. Therefore the Lord God said: Thou shalt not kill.

It is easy to see, then, that the chief enemy of God is the enemy of life. The first recorded sin after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise was murder. Jesus calls the devil “a murderer from the beginning,” one who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 8:44; 10:10). The mad fury of the demonic hater of life is present to a frightening degree today: wars, abortion, other types of murder, “assisted suicide,” etc.

God has an ultimate answer: resurrection. The helpless may be slaughtered, but the power of life goes on. They will one day break through their coffins and covered graves even more easily than mushrooms break through asphalt. On that day, no one will be able to take their lives any more, and they will live in the ever-increasing exhilaration of life in the heavenly Paradise.

But our concern is not only the final victory. If we ourselves are to be fully alive—and worthy of the gift—we must protect and nurture life, especially human life, created as it is in the image of God. We have to say NO to wanton killing of all kinds and YES to the flourishing of life. All attempts to squelch life will ultimately fail, even though they may gain temporary victories. Woe to those who stand on the side of death, joining forces with the “murderer from the beginning.” All their little victims will rise in triumphant glory, while the killers get what they promoted: death, and the eternal draining-out of every last shred of joy in the gift of life. We, however, stand at the Cross of Christ, uniting ourselves with Him who was killed and then overcame death, rising to everlasting glory. For we know wherein the victory lies.

So learn a lesson from the mushrooms that break through roads—and even from the squirrels who, as I write, are hurling half-eaten pinecones at my cabin from their safe treetop vantage—nothing can stop them! Nothing will stop the march of life to its ultimate fulfillment in God. We won’t give up, for we can’t give up. We are alive, and Christ lives in us through his Spirit. This life is irrepressible, so let us go forth undaunted to preach the Gospel of Life to the world. Just let the enemies of life try to pave us over. They’ll see what the power of life can do!