In which I see a burning bush and say “Yes”

I’m taking some time off from blogging to finish my book. In the meantime, I am reposting a few of your requested favourites.

 Today’s post originally appeared on 3 December 2011.

At church this past Sunday, one of the leaders spoke to me. (There was a gym-full of other people there, but I’m pretty sure that the words he spoke were for me, for this week.)

He was speaking about encountering God and he read the story of Moses and the burning bush. I’ve read the story a thousand times and yet somehow, this time, it was just time for it. He spoke about how we do this thing when we hear the call of God: we disqualify ourselves. Moses heard the call of God – complete with burning-bush-not-consumed – and yet somehow still responded with all of the reasons why he should be disqualified from this call, this life’s work. Sandals off, standing in the dust of the holy ground and here, Creator, is the long list of the reasons why you need to strongly reconsider your choice.

I am disqualified.

Isn’t this what we do? We hear the voice of God – sometimes it sounds like thunder, sometimes it looks like a burning bush, sometimes it feels like a big huge hairy idea or that feeling you get when you write or paint or teach or preach or serve or help or mother or learn, that pricking in your thumbs alerts you: this is divine, so pay attention.

But the second it comes – that sound of rushing in your ears that lets you know THIS thing you’re feeling, this calling to a work or an idea, is God – something else, something a bit smaller and cowering, dressed in failures and regrets, whispers, hisses: Who do you think you are?

Right. So right. Who do I think I am? Who am I?

Who would ever listen to me? Who would ever think what I had to say or create or do or be matters? I can see the naysayers lined up and here, let me give you an exhaustive list of all the ways and reasons why I am disqualified from this calling or this vision or this plan or this dream. It’s easier to sit here, tending sheep, far from risk. I can tell you all the reasons why I cannot do it and they all start with this question, muttered while kicking rocks or shouted to the heavens in despair: Who am I?

The thing I love most about this story is that God does not reply like a friend. He does not give a long list of all the Ways That Moses Is Really Awesome or even dispute all of those reasons. No, the story continues and we learn that the only thing that qualifies Moses is what qualifies any of us: God is the great I AM.

God is the qualifier. He works a few miracles, gets angry with Moses even, makes a way. And the story arches forward because “I’ll be right there with you.” The only qualifier for the calling is the doing of it, the obedience. Will Moses do it, obey? Yes, eventually, sort of, not always perfectly – and the fate of a nation changes.

Even though I love education, even though I love intellectualism and reading and serving and long lists of practical experience, resumes and reasons and precedent, the truth is we all know when the call of God comes disturbing our calm waters, our fears and regrets and reasons all come to this question: Who am I, anyway? And God knows it too and so the response is always “I am” and “I go with you.”

That was Sunday.

I came home and told Brian later that the entire message felt very significant to me for some reasons. I couldn’t figure out why – it’s not like I felt any big calling or even anything bigger than the daily work of these days.

But then came the week.

A few emails, a few phone calls. A few dreams that I lovingly put away as past due, buried in a once-hoped-for-this-chest have been shaken out, mothballs flying.  Dreams are airing out on the line, in the sunshine. They’re quite beautiful to me, for all I haven’t really allowed myself to look at them for a while. And the breeze of the Spirit is fluttering on us all and the only thing I want to say is “Who am I?”

Someone in publishing has asked me about writing a book. Me. For real. Who am I? I’m figuring out how to write a proposal now, figuring out who would want to be an agent for a total unknown like myself and somehow doors keep flying open. Dreams that were dormant are not only waking from their slumber, they’re being driven like a team of horses, galloping at speeds that are leaving me dizzy.

And yet, despite the self-doubt that wants to keep me from even trying, one foot in front of the other, trusting wherever I go, He goes with me.

I wasn’t planning on saying anything. Nothing is signed. It may all come to nothing. But even if it does wither and it’s just another stop on the long journey, I want to mark it here.

If this book will be, it will be. And if it won’t, it won’t be because I didn’t take my shoes off on the holy ground, it won’t be because I did not do the work of it, it won’t be because I forgot this truth about the breath of God calling from the burning.

All I can do is slip off my shoes, acknowledge holy ground, admit my own inadequacies to this calling and say YES anyway.


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  • dukeslee

    Working on one of my final chapters today, and here, this. Your fine words. … I should be writing, but then again, no. I needed to read this first.

    And I am barefoot. (I pray my soul is, too.)

  • Anita Mathias

    I am with you: the words with which we can face impossible tasks. Love it!

  • Sarah Westphal

    Thank you, as always.

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  • Brittney

    Holy f, I needed to read this. Bold, intellectual, clear. And let’s not fail to mention, here you are with your book coming out. Wow. God woke me up at 5 am this morning to set me in front of my laptop, exhaust me, frustrate me, and anger enough to simply start writing what I was doing and thinking. What I know. What I have to say. Why I’m scared to put out what I have to say. I’m not a blog reader, nor am I a commenter, but I came across yours yesterday by accident, and realized I had once before as well. I feel a sense of understanding and kinship with any person who is so direct, gently confrontational, and swears, whilst simultaneously remaining within the rhythm of the kingdom. We agree on some hugely confrontational topics (from what I see so far anyways), and the few times I’ve been exposed to your words, it has been the burning bush moment I needed to move forward with the scary and irrational “what-if” lurking within my bones. Burning bushes everywhere…thank you for this one.