Burning Bushes Everywhere

by David Whyte
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing of light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out.
I knew then as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been,
nor the remaining pages in a great book waiting
to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

This week I had the opportunity to spend time with my 2-year-old granddaughter, Nova. There’s nothing quite like seeing life through the eyes of a little one to clear one’s own vision and recapture wonder. As we walked down our street, I pointed to a fire hydrant across the street that we’ve seen many times before and asked her if she remembered what that’s called. She got the word “fire,” but the second word was, to me at least, unintelligible. So I said “Yes! That’s a fire hydrant!” And so she toddled down the street saying “Fire hydrant! Fire hydrant!” We crossed the street several houses down to return home and wound up walking right past that fire hydrant. She ran over to it, threw her arms around it in a big hug and said ‘Hi fire hydrant! Whatcha doin’?!” Then she ran up to the tree near it and gave it a big hug saying “Hi tree! How ya doin’?!” I was so delighted in her delight with these simple, common things that I began to see the other things in the neighborhood and in my life with a little more wonder and gratitude. It was a moment of “the opening of eyes long closed,” as David Whyte says.

Seeing differently seems an appropriate theme for a Lenten journey. There is so much going on in our world that challenges the way we look at life. And each of us, no doubt, in our own personal lives has issues, people, events that invite us to see things in new ways. How we see life makes all the difference in how we live it. I ran across a quotation from Pope Francis recently that really struck me: “Contemplation is a matter of a heart that spends time simply being in the presence of God. I look at [God] and [God] looks at me.” Pope Francis says, “Everything comes from this: from a heart that feels that it is looked on with love. Then reality is contemplated with different eyes.” If we choose this contemplative stance in life – placing our hearts in the presence of God, looking at God, seeing God looking back at us with Divine Love – how different our experience of life can be! Now this doesn’t just mean sitting cross-legged on a cushion, or kneeling in a church, or any other specific “spiritual” activity. We can place our hearts in God’s presence and see God looking back at us in the eyes of our beloved ones at the dinner table, or in the faces we see on the evening news, or in the trees and spring flowers in our neighborhood. We can contemplate our everyday reality with different eyes once we’re able to recognize God looking at us with love wherever we are. Moses saw a common, ordinary bush ablaze with God and his life was changed. The gardener in Jesus’ parable saw not a barren fig tree but a divine creation with the potential to respond to his loving care and touch. David Whyte was “…the man throwing away his shoes as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished, opened at last, fallen in love with solid ground.” I watched 2-year-old Nova giving her love to a fire hydrant and a tree and saw the delight that God has for her and me and each one of us.

This kind of changed view of life is something that each of us is capable of and, in this season of Lent, we’re invited to open ourselves to this change traditionally through fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Each of these practices has the potential to change our perception of God, life, ourselves, each other, if we really pay attention. If we’re open to it. There are burning bushes everywhere just waiting to be seen. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning,

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…
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh #86

May our long-closed eyes be opened this Lent, and may we take off our shoes recognizing the holy ground on which we walk.

March 03, 2022 by Anita Davidson 4 Comments
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2 years ago

Dear Anita, Your writing is a keeper. It reminds me of finding God in the simple moments and objects of each day. I do experience God looking at me with love and know that this simple acknowledgment can change lives. Thank you.

2 years ago

I will never look at a fire hydrant the same way again. I will see each one like a burning bush, full of God’s love looking back at me. How amazing; a fire hydrant on fire! A fire hydrant lighting a fire in me to be present to the presence of God that is all around.

Linda Longmire
Linda Longmire
2 years ago

Thank you once again, Anita , for your spiritual depth and insight and the fine way you are able to express this through weaving poetry , personal story , and your own deep awareness of the Sacred .

Barbara Osborne
Barbara Osborne
2 years ago

Inspiring thoughts. Thank you.


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