It was an interesting moment.
Years ago, I was talking with some folks when I mentioned Moses and the burning bush.
“I think I mowed over my burning bush with the lawnmower,” one man said.
This guy has a crazy sense of humor.
But at the time, I think he was discouraged.
I can only guess why.
Maybe his plans weren’t working out.
Or he wasn’t sensing the Lord’s direction, something God provided Moses via that bush.
I don’t know the story behind the man’s comment, but I know we all face dry seasons in life — those times when seems like we’ve been trudging through an endless desert.
And we’re tired.
Maybe that’s why I love “Discerning the Voice of God — How to Recognize When God Speaks” — one of Priscilla Shirer’s video Bible studies.
Priscilla, an author and speaker, shares many insights, some of which involve the story of Moses, a guy who understood deserts.
Moses was born long before the time of Christ.
At this point in history, Egypt’s Pharaoh fears the growing Israelite population in his country. So he orders that all Hebrew boys, ages 2 and under, be killed.
It must have been horrible.
But Moses’ mother has a plan for saving her baby. She coats a basket with pitch so it will float, puts the child inside and places him in reeds by a river bank.
Who could have guessed Pharaoh’s daughter would decide to bathe in the river and find the basket?
Moses becomes her son and he grows up in a palace.
When Moses is older, he sees an Egyptian beating an Israelite. Moses kills the Egyptian and flees the country. Moses goes to Midian, where he works for a man, marries his daughter and becomes a shepherd.
Moses is a shepherd for 40 years.
And no, I don’t think he got a gold-plated plaque for his achievement.
Meanwhile, the people of Israel, who are slaves in Egypt, are crying out to God. The Lord sees their misery and remembers a covenant he made with their ancestor Abraham.
If Abraham’s descendants obeyed God, he would guide and protect them and give them a land of their own.
One day, Moses is in the desert, watching sheep, when the angel of the Lord appears to him in a fire — right in the middle of a bush.
If you’ve ever seen a piece of paper burn, you know it kind of curls under, blackens and then turns to ash.
But this bush isn’t burning up.
Moses turns aside to see what he calls a “great sight.”
When God sees Moses has turned aside, he starts talking to him. God tells Moses that he’ll lead the Israelites out of slavery.
It would be a life-changing assignment, filled with challenges and miracles.
And it would be the fulfilment of Moses’ destiny — at least on this earth.
Yet before this happened, Moses spent 40 years in a desert tending sheep.
He knew dry times. Can you relate?
In dry seasons, we can be tempted to think God’s forgotten us. We wonder if God can hear us.
Here’s a few of Priscilla’s insights that I find comforting:
“Bushes don’t burn in palaces. They burn in deserts,”
- Priscilla says.
Sometimes, the most intimate times we’ll ever have with God is when we’re in life’s dry seasons. God can meet us in our wilderness, no matter how bad it is.
God is working even when you can’t see it.
- Priscilla tells a hilarious story about how her young son thought she did nothing all day, despite all the cooking, laundry and book writing she did.
We may think God’s doing nothing, when he’s crafting the masterpiece that is our life story.
“Your life is a masterpiece, even when you’re in the dry, wilderness seasons,” Priscilla says. “…Even in the hardest places of life, resurrection comes at the end. If you’re in a desert, don’t think God isn’t there or his purposes aren’t being served.”
God equips you for your life purposes in the desert.
- Moses learned leadership skills tending sheep that he’d need to lead 2 million people out of slavery. He’d learn these skills to the extent he was diligent in tending sheep in the desert.
I love what Priscilla says about desert times: “It’s in that season that he’s equipping you — giving you the character, substance, fortification and the foundational work necessary for him to accomplish his work through you.”
We’ll miss these things, she says, if we don’t fully invest in the sheep God has us pasturing at this season of our lives.
Priscilla says the relationships we’re making and encounters we’re having are what we’ll need for the next season of our life.
And when we can’t trace his hand, we need to trust God’s heart.
I think about the long, dry season I experienced as a single mom whose job wasn’t going well.
Looking back, I can see the friendships made or strengthened during that time.
Because I knew what it was like to work very hard, yet still face the possibility of being fired, I was more compassionate when loved ones — who’d tried so hard — lost jobs.
For a few years, my late husband and I led a singles group, because we knew what it was like to be single. When we could, we tried to help people in need, because we’d had tough financial times. Because we’d been picked on in school, we tended to spot and include folks on the sidelines.
There were fun lessons, too.
Teaching Bible stories to Sunday school kids helped me learn to explain them in ways adults can understand in these columns. My cooking mishaps became column examples. So did the escapades of our goofy dogs.
But if I’d never struggled with weight loss, frantically searched for a lost dog or wondered how I’d ever get a pile of work done, I wouldn’t have seen our faithful God carry me through these and other situations and I probably couldn’t empathize with others facing a myriad of challenges.
God taught me so many lessons after my late husband’s accident. I know God can give us furnace mates in the fiery trials we face. I know he is our lifeboat when our ship is going down and that he is so faithful.
For as much as I dislike desert times, I know they don’t last forever.
Desert times can strengthen us for our Promised Land.
And that’s good, because there will be battles even in places of abundance.
What happened to the guy who thought he mowed over his burning bush? He and his family went on to see dreams fulfilled.
Now, my prayers are that:
God keeps me from missing any burning bush he puts in my life.
I learn well the lessons he’s teaching me.
And that he prepares me well for future seasons in my life.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.