Discovering Your Burning Bush in the Chaos of 2016
2016 will go down as quite a year in history. The radical shifts that are happening globally are indicative of major shifts in the spiritual realm as well… if we have eyes to see. Before we jump into the next year, may I encourage you to do a personal inventory of what God may have been saying to YOU through this tumultuous year?
As I have begun reflecting on this past year, I have pulled out a poem that one of my besties found ten years ago when we were in the thick of child-rearing. Back then, God was calling her to step into something new at what seemed like a most inconvenient time; she was homeschooling four kids, transitioning to a new role in our organization, her extended family was in crisis, and her marriage was…. well, a normal marriage at that stage— hard. She created the most powerful image in her journal out of shiny metallic papers in layered reds, yellows, and oranges– a magnificent burning bush to mark a new season of God’s invitation. She wrote the poem by Macrina Wiederlehr above the bush which read:
The Moses in my heart trembles
not quite willingly to accept
the prophet hidden in my being
wondering how much it will cost
to allow the prophet to emerge.
O Child of unnecessary shoes
cast them off
and stand in readiness
on this holy ground
for the Egypt in people’s lives
demands that you see the
burning bushes all around you
away from the comfort
of well-protected feet
The ground we stand on is holy
Take off your shoes
the ground of your being is holy
Take off your shoes
Awaken the sleeping prophet
Believe in your Moses
All of us have moments in our journey where something out of the ordinary catches our eye and we cannot look away. A burning bush of sorts appears in varying sizes and shapes and we find ourselves forced to acknowledge something (Someone?) is trying to get our attention. And THIS year?! This year everyone I know has had their cage rattled by something… the election, a health crisis, growing discontent with the American dream, relational conflict, struggling churches/organizations, the refugee crisis, the increase of terrorist attacks. We all are experiencing upheaval of some kind.
And in the midst of the chaos, God is extending all kinds of flaming invitations. To individuals. To families. To churches. To nations. They are not a one size fits all sort of invitation… they are tailored to each person’s (or group’s) season and calling. But everyone has one. Everyone.
Some of our burning bushes will be painful. Think of Saul, struck blind on the road to Damascus on his way to persecute the Christians of the first century. Jesus asks him directly, “Saul, why are you persecuting me??” Show us, Jesus, where we are misdirecting our energies and ultimately fighting against YOU and your plans.
Some of our burning bushes may include invitations to make a thorough house-cleaning. Think of Gideon, whose first invitation to follow God involved tearing down the family altars to false gods (which he did fearfully, while everyone was sleeping). Give us courage, Lord, to rock the boats in our families and communities.
Yet through other burning bushes God will ask us to quit looking around at everyone else and to respond for ourselves. Think of Peter, not at the beginning of his life with Jesus but years into their relationship, when Jesus again says, “Follow me…” Peter immediately counters, “But what about John?” And the Lord clarifies His invitation: “What’s that to you— YOU follow me.” Lord, help us to say YES to you regardless of what you are saying to others or whether others are willing to come with us.
But of course, some of our burning bushes will be thrilling, life-defining calls to adventure. Think of David, pulled from the fields of tending sheep as a teenager and anointed on the spot in front of his entire family to become the King of Israel. Come anoint us to step into our God-given authority and purpose, Lord!
The fires are ablaze around us… but we must STOP, turn from our present course, and take time to listen.
As we stand on the edge of a new year.. may I invite you to engage in a holy pause? Where might God have been trying to get your attention but you, swept along by the press of your schedule, were unable to make space to lean in to hear what God had to say?
Of all the myriad of experiences, emotions, changes, events, griefs, victories, and craziness of the past year… can you identify your burning bushes in 2016? What made you weep? What made you swell with righteous anger? What situation brought you face to face with you fragility and need for healing? When did a longing surface from the deep which you can no longer ignore? When were you startled out of your everyday life— and forced to acknowledge you can no longer go on with status quo?
These things all point to a God attempting to arouse the prophet in each of us. We have the invitation to join the most motley of crews (just read the Bible!) to partner with God in bringing His Kingdom to earth. A grand adventure somehow playing out in the storybook of YOUR life. Moses himself went from affluence and privilege to running from the guilt of murder to wallowing in obscurity in a desert. And THEN, God spoke from a burning bush. All his experiences– the good, the bad, and the ugly– somehow miraculously woven into the calling for his major life purpose. Nothing wasted.
This is the season to take off our shoes and acknowledge that we are on holy ground. Because every burning bush leads to one thing… the Holy God behind the invitation. The Good Father is making you an offer you don’t want to refuse. It will cost you everything, but you will gain Life beyond your wildest dreams.
Before your calendar begins to fill with work, play, and endless activities— STOP. Turn aside. Ask God to direct your gaze to the burning bushes around you. Explore what your invitation might be for 2017. Too much is shifting around us to assume you should just stay the course of your normal life.
May we each awaken our sleeping prophet and go boldly into 2017.
NOTE: The above picture was painted by one of my dear friends and roommates from college, Colleen Briggs. You may purchase this print and see her other amazing works at her Etsy site.
Or check out her blog on art, justice, and faith at Fragments of Light.