the mycelial network of God’s plan

the mycelial network of God’s plan

. 4 min read

There is this look that Builder-husband and the children get right before they’re about to burst into a fit of playful creativity. Half-serious, half-crazed, laughing and thinking. They start moving before they have the whole thing planned, they restlessly scavenge for material, seeing if what they have will work, because they can’t possibly wait for a supply run, modifying their idea as they go. Their eyes are wide and wild when they play like this. They inventory and talk, they iterate right there in front of you. They’re just waiting to see what will happen next. The children have this look everyday. Builder-husband gets it on Sunday afternoons.

One Sunday afternoon, when Builder-husband had this look, he said, “I think I can make some art with just a sheet of plywood, some screws, and embroidery floss. Do we have embroidery floss? You wanted a new big colorful art piece anyway, didn’t you?”

“I think so?”

He stood up abruptly and went into the garage to sand and paint a stray piece of plywood. The children followed him, like they always do, he knighted them with the drill and deputized them to gently screw hundreds of small screws in the back of the plywood at predetermined intervals. For the next couple of weeks, we tied the embroidery floss off at the back of the screws and wrapped it around the face of the finished plywood. We wove it randomly on any screw we wanted, over the face, and back again. Any color we wanted. Little Girl worked solely in purples and pinks. When we all worked at the same time, we got tangled together.  We laughed, grew frustrated, as we bobbed and weaved. As the weeks went on, layer after layer, color after color, thread after thread, a dimensional, textured art piece emerged.

As abruptly as he started, Builder-husband stood it up for all of us to examine one Sunday afternoon, a month later.

“Is it done?” he asked.

“I think so,” said the big one. “I think it looks like a city at night, like how the whole eastern seaboard looks all lit up from the space station.”

“I think it looks like the connections in a brain, or maybe the internet,” said the philosopher-child.

“I think it looks like the mycelial network,” I said.

“It’s done,” Builder-husband decreed.

I used to think that God’s plan for my life was a lot like binary code, ones and zeros, on and off, opened windows, closed doors, that sort of thing. If I missed something he had for me, there wasn’t any kind of recourse. I had to wait for the next open exit-ramp. If there was going to be one.

Now I think that his plan is more like that art piece, like the mycelial network of fungi that interconnect plants and tree roots for miles upon miles in a single square foot of soil. Fungi researcher Paul Stamets calls it the “internet of the forest,” billions of microscopic hyphae threading through the soil under our feet, branching and interconnecting. Plants and trees use the mycelial network to send messages, they warn their neighbors and children of tough conditions. They use it to send resources, extra carbon to trees that don’t get enough light. God’s plan is a lot more like that, not so much a predetermined, one-way street with no parking from 9AM to 5PM, but a network of branching interconnections all lit up with interdependence, generosity, playfulness. And life. So much life.

I wonder if God starts with the same, half-crazed look of playful creation my children and husband have? They have to get it from someone, right? I imagine the triune God saying something like, “I think we can make this work with what we have; I can’t wait to see what will happen next.”

After Little Girl was born, the room bustled with cheerful chaos. Nurses cleaned the baby while Builder-husband supervised, other medical technicians cleared the detritus. My midwife, Deborah, a woman in her 50s with visible sleep lines on her face from being on call all night, quietly came to the side of my bed. Turned half-way toward me, she asked in a conspiratorial whisper, “do you want to see your placenta? It’s just about the most beautiful placenta I’ve ever seen in 30 years of doing this. I don’t usually do this unless people ask, but yours is just so perfect, I had to show you.”

“Um, sure.”

She pulled a stainless steel bowl from behind her. In it, I saw a ball of deep red tissue with thick blue-black veins extending and intersecting across it like the branches of the ancient oak trees that stood sentry by our first small house.

“I mean, look at that vasculature. It’s just beautiful.”

“It is beautiful."

“Your body just grew this whole extra organ so you could grow your daughter, isn’t that just, well I mean, I guess it’s a cliche, but it’s the miracle of life, really. Anyway, I’ll get this out of your way, your little girl is all clean and ready for you now.”

Deborah shifted out of the way as another nurse handed me Little Girl. Looking into my baby's gray-blue eyes, I knew her geometry from the inside, the months of kicks and jabs. I was just becoming acquainted with her earthside.

"Well hello there," I said.

I don’t make sweeping generalizations about God’s plans anymore. I don’t know them. I don’t even make assumptions about them. But I do know the hallmarks of them: surprisingly beautiful growth, playful creation, lit-up interconnections, life brimming over, and this intense, relentless, focused drive to make it good.