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Am I a burning bush?

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iwill never in a million years understand how you knew to send that specific verse.”

As I sat in my car reading this reply message, I had questions of my own. That morning, I had sent my friend a note of encouragement. Why had they come to mind at just that time? It had been a very long time since we had connected, and though I wanted to reach out, I hadn’t known what to say. While considering what to write, a specific Scripture passage had come to mind, like a Holy Spirit nudge.

Now I wondered: How did I know what specific verse to send? I didn’t know. It was a God thing; God gave me the words to share. That’s the only answer I had.

As amazing as it may seem, God engages with us in personal ways. You may have experienced this as well. There have been times when God impresses upon me a strong awareness of his love, holiness or peace through a certain song, a specific verse or even nature. We speak of receiving the Spirit’s direction through Scripture, discernment in community or in prayer.

But this idea of hearing from God directly, in the midst of everyday life? Sure, there are Bible stories of this. But does this happen now? Do I even leave room for the possibility? Perhaps I have not slowed enough to listen for his voice or am not willing to risk hearing and responding.

When we encounter God

Questions like these surfaced again months later as I sat among coastal redwoods in an open-air camp chapel. We know about God, but what happens when we encounter him? Speaker Danielle Strickland pointed out that when Moses saw the burning bush, it was its unusual manner that caught his attention. The bush was not just on fire; it was not being consumed. The burning bush stirred curiosity, the best place to start when encountering something new. “What’s this,” Moses may have thought. “I have got to find out more!”

There have been times when God impresses upon me a strong awareness of his love, holiness or peace through a certain song, a specific verse or even nature.

And by pausing and turning, Moses’ attention is fully available. His conversation with God brings up so much to reflect on: how we hear God’s voice, how willing we are to respond, making room for hard questions and the way God equips us, especially when the invitation to partner with him seems too impossible to fathom.

Sitting in that outdoor chapel, I had already heard many of these insights in studies or sermons over the years, and you may have as well. But what really stuck with me was this: We can become a burning bush for others.

As we partner with God in what he is doing in the world—which often requires unusual degrees of love, faith, sacrifice and patience—others take note. “What’s this? How is this possible?” And that’s a holy moment we can invite them to step into. They may be wondering: “How can you love like this? Why would you risk or extend yourself in this way for me?” And then we get to explain how Jesus did this for us and showed us how to do the same.

Looking at it that way, I see the burning bush examples around me. People I know often leave me wondering at the way they respond to the world so differently than I’m used to.

You probably know faith-full people like this too. And I could go on and on! About those who are bold in their hospitality or are not ashamed in the middle of worship to embody the music or to let tears flow. How do they live this way? They have encountered God. Not once, but again and again and again. So much so that knowing of God became replaced by life with him.

It’s been some time since I first wrestled with these thoughts and questions. Here are a few other things I’ve discovered along the way.

It’s not about us. As inspiring as all this is, we don’t have to muster up the faith or passion to become a burning bush for others. In fact, attempting to do for God through our own efforts usually has the opposite effect. We don’t have to “be the light.” This is something that comes out of our encounters with God. How wonderfully freeing, yet also breathtakingly tender, for it often involves difficulty, and sometimes brokenness, with the light shining through.

Dare to live differently. Do I want to live this way? It’s both partly appealing and appalling. Who doesn’t want to experience a connection with God like this?!  Yet it means being so … different. Do we dare to live in ways that might feel awkward to others? Or worse, have we sensed God’s guiding voice but chose to dismiss it?

Be curious. Where do we begin? Or begin again? We practice noticing. When something catches our attention, we pause and are curious. “God, what might you want to show me here?” Often, we think of “hearing God’s voice” as being huge, singular, rare. What if it is actually a regular part of how we experience him?

Live it out

When I talk with someone about how we’ve each been growing to know God more, we often find similar themes. And I realize again that all the things we’ve known about God’s character are real and true. It’s all true! So, let’s not just say we have a relationship with Jesus, but let’s live and speak of it. And then we can dare to be a flame. We can dare to listen for his voice: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’” (Is. 30:21).

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