Any Old Bush Will Do

By Keith Miller | January 12, 2009

Keith,my life seems uneventful compared to the dramatic circumstances and situations outstanding Christian witnesses describe. I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t be more committed if I could go to the Holy Land and see the historic shrines where the biblical heroes were born, called by God, and died for their Lord. Do many people feel limited by their prosaic lives?

A friend who is a top flight management consultant and a very sharp Christian layman went toEuropesome years ago. He was excited because he had always wanted to visit the Christian shrines inEnglandand on the continent. He went toAldersgate Street, where John Wesley’s “heart was strangely warmed,” toWittenberg, and to Rome, where Luther’s incisive turnings took place. But as he saw these places, which have become shrines for many Protestant Christians, he was frankly disappointed. He had expected to be inspired and awed, but these were just plain buildings and towns.

As he thought about his disappointment, he realized that these had been just ordinary places when the action had taken place that later made them important. In each case the thing that made these churches and cities shrines was that each was a simple setting in which a person made a decision concerning God’s will for himself or herself—a time when someone turned with his or her whole life, faced God, and chose Him over “things.” The events that followed were so significant that people now travel for miles just to see the site where the decision was made.

In considering this I realize that so often I have looked for a special place or dramatic circumstances in which I could do God’s will. I remembered a sermon another friend once preached about the places where faith can blossom and lives can be committed. He spoke of Moses and the burning bush and concluded the sermon by pointing out that “Any Old Bush Will Do.”

The potential shrines in our lives, then, may not be exciting sites or meetings but rather circumstances in which we run out of our own strength and turn to God, offering Him our futures, whatever the cost. The birth of a deeper transforming faith seems to be the event that melds the decision, the deeds, and the place into a shrine. And for this,any old bush will do—any old loneliness or frustration, fear, anxiety, or broken relationship—or any of the outward circumstances in which we find ourselves when we commit our lives to Him. Any of these simple “places” where faith comes alive may one day become for us a Christian shrine—any old house, kitchen sink, office chair—or wherever you are reading this . . . right now.

. . . I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig tree, giving full vent to my tears . . . I sent up these sorrowful words; How long? how long, “tomorrow, and tomorrow”? Why not now? Why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

So I was speaking, and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of a boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently, whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read, was spoken to him; Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. And by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle, when I arose thence, I seized, opened, and in silence read that section, on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine

“Thus I journeyed toDamascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’And I said,‘Who are you, Lord?’And the Lord said,‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” Acts 26:12-18

Lord, It is frightening to me to call you “Lord” when I realize that means that I am signing up to be your servant—to go and do and be according to your designs, even if they should conflict with my own. Although it is easy for me to say “Lord” most days, sometimes—as right now—I realize the awesome and unconditional response for which you are asking. And I want to say with young Augustine, “not yet, Lord.” But I won’t. Help me as I make this chair and this room a shrine in my own pilgrimage by offering myself to you right now. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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