I love the story of Moses. When I open my bible and don’t know where to read, or I’m not sure what to study, I turn to the book of Exodus. It is my “go to” bible spot because Moses’ story is full of intrigue, frustration, unbelievable miracles, and what seems like pure chance.
Moses is hunted as an infant and then adopted by a king. He commits murder and flees from the law. Just when he thinks he has salvaged his life, he is sent back to Pharaoh's wrath. He sees wonders performed through a staff as plagues haunt Egypt. He watches the Red sea part, water flow forth from a rock in the desert, and bread fall from heaven. He sees God as smoke enveloping a mountain top, and he holds the very handwriting of God himself on two tablets of stone. How could you not be enchanted by his story?
As I read the story of Moses, I find there is one encounter of which I am envious. The burning bush. God chose to meet with Moses and audibly speak with him in a miraculous way.
After the death of my son, I desperately wanted my own burning bush. I wanted the Lord to meet me, speak to me, give me direction, and answer some questions. I needed him to prove that he was bigger than my circumstance and more powerful than my pain. I wanted to be given purpose in something that felt incredibly purposeless. I convinced myself, if God can part the waters of the sea, surely he can speak to me through my huge pile of laundry! You may think this is funny, but as Christians, I know that every one of us have wondered why God hasn’t just audibly answered our questions, or shot down a spike of lightning as a sign for us to go one way or another. We know he is capable of it because we read about his wonders with Moses, and we think… why can’t I have that?
As I began to ponder this idea, my first thought was that “burning bushes” don’t necessarily build our faith. Despite the fact that God appeared in a burning bush and told Moses he wouldn’t go to Egypt alone, he had the great I Am on his side, Moses was still afraid and asked for another to go in his stead. You might think that an encounter like this would make you feel invincible, but Moses didn’t feel that way.
The Israelites also struggled with their faith in the sure presence of God. While being fed manna from heaven, and led by a pillar of smoke by day and of fire by night, God’s chosen people still doubted Him and built golden altars to fake gods. I believe that God knows that a burning bush wouldn’t necessarily strengthen my faith or answer all my questions. Like Moses and the Israelites, I wonder if it might just confuse me more.
I continued to wrestle with this concept, thinking that maybe I would appreciate the intensity of my own personal sign from God more than the Israelites did. So I posed the idea to my older sister. She is very wise and she said, “I am careful not to pray for something like a burning bush. Think of those people in the bible who actually got one. God asked for their very lives and sent them into difficult situation after difficult situation. None of them seemed to have an easy road. I would be careful to consider what you are really asking for.”
Now I wasn’t sure I even wanted a dying shrub! But I love what she said. Because my sister was right. I wasn’t comprehending the gravity of what I thought I was asking for. God appeared to Moses because He was moving his people and his world into position for Jesus. I am just asking for a burning bush in hopes it might make me feel better. And while I know God can do anything he pleases, and wants to make me feel better, a burning bush isn’t necessarily what is best for both my heart and His kingdom.
After all this reasoning, I am still left with my pain. I am still left wondering if I could somehow meet God face to face. Then I heard one of the pastors at my church say, “God makes no apologies for not being seen, and not standing in front of us in order to speak with us. The very nature of our faith in Him is to believe in what we cannot see.”
Every fiber in me knew this to be true. Nowhere in the bible does God apologize for being invisible. Christians like to explain this by describing God like the wind. Though we don’t see it, we can feel it. I think a better descriptor would just be the air. I can’t see him and most of the time I don’t feel him, but my very life depends on Him.
After all of this, I am beginning to see that a “burning bush” scenario would only be a band-aid for my gaping wound. I don’t need God to talk to me through burning branches; I need to believe that the God who is able to part the seas is also able to take away my pain and heal my heart.
I don’t think it is wrong to ask God for a burning bush. I think the request reveals our desperation for Him. It shows him just how much we long to know he really is with us all the time. It shows him that we care what he thinks, and how much we want to know where the heck this crazy world is headed. It shows him we do think our own lives matter in his grand scheme of things. It shows him we aren’t afraid to talk to him. And I think it shows him we are trying to trust.
As I tucked my two year old son into bed last night, he reached for me and pulled me into his bed. As we snuggled there together, he grabbed my hand and opened my fingers just to place his little hand in mine. My eyes filled with tears. There it was. A burning bush. True sweet love from my baby boy, who is a gift, an absolute miracle from the Most High God. One that is even more impressive than a bush on fire.
When I look at my life, I begin to see burning bushes everywhere. My life is on fire with incredible blessings and miraculous miracles. Isn’t that our God? All I was asking for was one burning bush, and he has set my life on fire.