Afire with Possibilities
We all have experienced the divisiveness that is so prominent in our culture today, divisiveness over mask mandates, vaccination, human sexuality in the church, etc. In the midst of this divisiveness comes a deeply moving and profound book by Bishop Michael Curry, “Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times”. Each chapter addresses a question about love that Bishop Curry has been asked by people he has encountered in his travels, questions such as How do I find God’s love?, Can love really change the world?, and, Do I have to love even my enemy?
In his chapter on How do I find the energy to keep loving when the world seems to be going the other way?, Bishop Curry discusses how to turn “the problem of reality into possibility”.
He highlights a story we all know well, Moses and the burning bush. Here is a man who lived a life of indulgence until he has to flee for his life after killing an Egyptian. He flees to Midian where he marries and looks after his father-in-law’s sheep. One day while out in the fields he has an encounter that would change his life, an ordinary bush on fire but not being consumed. From this bush he hears the voice of God calling to him to take off his shoes for he is on sacred ground. Moses then enters into conversation with God and from that conversation he sees possibilities for his people enslaved in Egypt. He becomes a great leader, the one who demands that Pharaoh let his people go, the one who leads his people across the Reed Sea, the one who shepherds his people through the wilderness to the promised land. Moses is able to see possibility (leading his people to freedom) in the problem of reality (enslavement).
So the question for me, the question for us, is what possibilities do we see in what we would consider “the problem of reality”? Do we see the problem as an ordinary bush being consumed by fire (“O, here we go again. Same tune, different verse. Nothing’s going to change. We might as well get use to it.”) or do we see a bush afire with God’s presence and possibilities?
Bishop Curry invites us to reflect on the following lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” in which Browning tells us that everything is afire with God if we only have eyes to see. With eyes to see and a willingness to listen to God we may find that “ What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” (John W. Gardner, former United States Secretary of Health, education, and Welfare under President Lyndon B. Johnson) May our reflections on these lines by Browning help us to be attuned to the presence and possibilities of God all around us.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
God’s joy and peace to all.
Christine McHenry, MD, MATS, Vice-Chair, Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders
These reflections represent the view of the author.