The Burning Bush
Sometimes it seems as if one event in our lives summarizes the whole of our lives. I once heard a speaker who immensely enjoyed telling the story of the day of his Baptism. Everything was in readiness for this great sacrament of initiation. When his godmother uncovered the bundle she was holding, she discovered that she had been holding the child upside down. Tiny pink feet wiggled and stretched and greeted the Christian assembly.
Although this speaker would react with shyness to anyone saying this, in the days and years that followed, his feet were indeed richly blessed. Those who know him are reminded of Isaiah's quote: "Blessed are the feet of the one who comes bearing good news, announcing peace, telling everyone that the Lord God is near." (Is.52:7) This person is now a Scripture scholar.
There is a school of thought that promotes the theology that the end is in the beginning and all along the way. Related to this is the topic of burning bushes we encounter, and sometimes pass up - those events wherein God speaks quietly without show. In such moments, we learn more about God, about the all of life and how our own life fits into that all.
What are some techniques for becoming more aware of burning bush events? How can one become more accustomed to leading the reflected life?
One way is to recall one event from your childhood that was a foreshadowing of the years to come. In it, how did God deal with you? Is this still true? What one happening this past week, or even yesterday, summarizes who you are, and the unique way in which God works in you? Today, at this moment, what Scripture passage speaks to you and is a commentary on your unique, but also somewhat common, human vocation? Interestingly enough, Walter Brueggemann states that, by reason of our personhood, our existence is by definition conflicted. "We are always in tension with our (human) vocation, wanting it another way or not at all."(1)
I have a friend, now with God in a different way, who used to sum up the different experiences in life in a single word. He would take a trip, be with his family, or conduct a rally to encourage the small Iowa farmer. In prayer and reflection, he sought to find one word that would summarize the event. I know of someone else who summarizes her morning meditation in a few words, and then posts it where she will see it during the day. These are Holy Ground moments, in which God speaks from the Burning Bush.
Most people reading this reflection were baptized right side up. Still, something happened way back there. The whole of our lives, with all its joys, frustrations and discouragement, was consecrated and immersed in the strength, comfort and fidelity of God. On any given day, we can claim what was given to us at that moment.
The nice part about burning bushes is that, if we miss one, another will come to us, later. Jessica Powers, our Carmelite poet, alludes to this. "The flame burned on, unimperiled," she writes, "There was no darkness that could put it out."(2)
1. Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, Journal of Bible and Theology, Vol XXXIL April 1979, #2 (Virginia, Union Theological Seminary) p. 126.
2. Jessica Powers, Selected Poetry, 1989, (Kansas City, Missouri, Sheed &Ward) p.1.
By: Sr. Mary Jo Loebig