When You Are the Burning Bush: “On Fire for God” Isn’t so Hot

When You Are the Burning Bush: “On Fire for God” Isn’t so Hot May 9, 2022

Being on fire for God sounds great when you speak Christianese. But sometimes it doesn’t feel so hot.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Most people know the story of Moses, either from the Bible itself or from the movies. You know how he grew up as a prince of Egypt, but at some point, learned that he was Hebrew. When he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, he killed him and fled to the desert to become a shepherd for 40 years. In the wilderness, Moses beheld a miracle and turned aside to see that great sight. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush that was not consumed and called Moses to become a prophet

When we read biblical stories, we often put ourselves in the position of the main character. We try to get inside their head and imagine their experience. We relate it to our own lives and try to learn something from it. Most of us have done this with the story of Moses. A Sunday school teacher or preacher has invited us to consider what our call may be, or whether we will turn aside to see the signs that God uses to speak to us.

What if you don’t identify with Moses in this story? What if you feel like the bush? You feel like you are going through the fire in life right now, and it hurts. And other people have turned aside to gawk. They aren’t even doing anything about your pain. They’re just standing around having their own religious experience. Maybe later, they will use your life as an object lesson for what God did for them. They will shake their heads and say, “There but for the grace of God went I—but God called me to something great.” They will become the hero of their stories. But you are just the burning bush whose life is on fire.


There are a few things you need to know about the bush:


The Bush is Closer to God Than Moses

While Moses only witnesses the Almighty’s fiery presence, the bush is completely overcome. As you read the story, you say, “God speaks to Moses–why doesn’t God speak to me?” The answer is that God wasn’t in Moses, but God is in you. If you’re the burning bush, you can know that God is closer to you than your heartbeat and nearer than your breath. It’s not a matter of God speaking to you, but a matter of getting still to feel God’s raw power living inside you.


This Won’t Last Forever

 The bush had not always been on fire, and it will not always be on fire. But the bush would endure. In no way would I ever try to minimize the pain, anxiety, and discomfort you were going through right now. To honor that pain means to recognize its place in time. It means to esteem its impermanence. You have not always felt this pain, so that gives it a special place in your life. Just as it hasn’t always been, it also won’t always be. When you can respect the momentary learning opportunity that it is, you can use it as a sacred time to let God completely fill you.


The Bush is Rooted in Holy Ground

 God told Moses to take off his shoes because he stood on holy ground. But, as privileged as Moses was to walk there, he only stood upon that ground. The bush was rooted in it. Its tap roots run deep into the same living water that would flow miraculously in the desert. Drinking from underground springs, the bush had the resiliency and divine resources that it needed in order to burn but not be consumed. The fact that you are rooted in holy ground gives you the miraculous ability to burn without being consumed. Nobody said it was a pleasant experience, but your rootedness in God produces fire retardant qualities within your spirit.


The Bush Is Not Consumed

 There’s a strange thing that we English speakers do, called Cute Aggression. When someone is cute and adorable and we want to have a great relationship with them, we use language of consumption. We say things like, “I could just eat you up!” God’s love, however, is not like that. God loves you but never wants to consume. Instead of destroying you, God wants to help you be the best version of you that you can be.

Another phrase we use is being on fire for Jesus, or for God. That’s fine as long as what we mean is allowing God’s light to fill us or God’s presence to warm us. Others who witness what God is doing in our lives can feel that God is speaking directly to them. In that case, it is a joy to burn with passion for God. But remember, God’s love does not consume. God’s fire does not destroy but refines you like gold.


On Fire for God

Being on fire for God sounds like a great thing if you listen to the Evangelical crowd. But often they neglect the painful part of that experience. It’s not a matter of seeking spiritual ecstasy that avoids all hardship. In fact, it’s usually in the midst of angst and agony that we find ourselves on fire. When you hear the story of Moses and identify more with the bush than the hero of the story, remember that you are closer to God in our own burning than those who simply stand and watch. Just as certainly as you have not always been on fire, the flames will eventually be snuffed. God planted and rooted you in Holy ground. God nourishes you with living water inside and out so that while on fire, you are never consumed.


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