How to Find a Burning Bush

You've been in a desert for forty years, eyes with a permanent squint from glaring watchfully over your flock, the finest of wrinkles at the edges, hands calloused to the point where they've cracked all over, the only smooth places are where the wood staff is gripped, your one constant companion during your imposed exile.

The pattern of a shepherd's existence has become a rhythm you move to every morning, every day, every evening. Even the variables of new sheep and new behaviors have been assimilated into your silent liturgy--highs and lows, sun and rain, predators and prey, all surrendering to your regiment, a magnetic pull that allows no freedom.  Today, this day, is every day. And the days have embraced you and made you a seamless part of the irresistible tide of the desert. . .

Is that fire? Probably. You've seen fire before, many times. Most of the time a lightning strike will hit a dry patch of brush and burn itself out--occasionally it will be a fellow wandering shepherd who left their coals thinking them covered well. . .

That is fire. And it is burning brightly, consistently, and. . .permanently? Let us go over to it and see what is going on. . .it's just a slight break in the pattern, a minor detour, a one-time anomaly. . .let us go see why this bush burns but does not burn up. . .

We know what happens now, don't we?
Moses encounters Yahweh, the great I AM, and he finds himself standing on holy ground, a place where sandals come off and heads are bowed. The fire, the bush, the Voice, and the calling all shattered Moses' four decade pattern of shepherding in the wilderness. The Burning Bush is the beginning of one of the grandest narratives of the Bible, the Exodus of God's people, the journey from slavery to freedom, from death to life. . .


I was recently at a conference where I met a very articulate, educated young woman who was  practicing law in a big city. We were sitting at a table in the volunteer's room after lunch and I was asking her typical get-to-know you questions. . .

"So wow, you're getting to practice law in a very specific arena, is that what you've wanted to do?"

"Not really. I'm just doing it for now. I'm called to work with orphans in ___________ but I'm waiting for the fire, you know?"

"What if the fire never comes?"

I received a very shocked and blank look.

Only one person in the Bible ever got a burning bush--and he didn't want it. He wasn't even looking for it, and when he got the Burning Bush moment, he tried to reason with God out of it with some quickly put together rationalizations. . .


I told this young lady that if she had a calling to do something, then she might want to consider the next step as doing it and not waiting for miraculous fire sent from on high to settle into her heart. . .

I had limited time with her, and had already shocked her with my statements so I backed off but I could've gone further and said that "Burning Bush Moments", meaning clear definitive times in God's presence where we worship in awe and understand what we are to do, come more frequently when we are already walking and working in obedience. . .rather than when we are waiting for a supernatural passion to arrive. And even then we are not promised those unique otherworldly moments. . .we may get them (once every 40 years?) but we are most assuredly not promised them.

I was still mulling these thoughts and had just jotted them down on my little mini-clipboard with its mini-legal pad when one of the emcees of the event shared a poem. . .about a burning bush.

It is from Elizabeth Barret Browning and it goes like this:

Earth's crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - 

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.


And here is the real secret of the Burning Bush. . .the real secret of experiencing heavenly fire and walking in wonder and awe. . .

Are we willing to slow down our frantic pace, take off our efficiency and profit goggles, switch off our consumer engines, turn down the noises of a million media devices and power down the screens of isolated connectivity enough that we can see the fire all around us and smell the roses of this spectacular garden that has been granted to us? Will our sandals stay pragmatically on as we pluck the blackberry and see only a pie for our appetites. . .or will we fling them away in joy and awe seeing in this bush a miracle of Creation? (Which will make them taste all the sweeter. . .)

The sacred spaces are all around us. . .Lord, give us eyes to see. . .


Matt O.