Here are 37 options, please choose 2.

My life coach told me to write down every major thing I think I could potentially do in the next five years, then I can only choose two (or maybe three) of them and I have to stick with my choice. I wrote down 37.

Flowers from an arrangement Bethany crafted backlit by an early sunset.

37 major life activities are impossible for anyone to complete in five years. I mean this is wildly unrealistic! Many were in direct contradiction to each other - I cannot live in the US, Europe, and South America all at the same time. This was eye opening for me. I realized that some of the frustration I am facing in life comes from wanting to do too many things and having a lot of trouble deciding which I think is most valuable. Even if you take away moral obligation or cultural expectations, it can be gut wrenching to decide what we care about most.

 

I was thinking through this dilemma, and perhaps feeling a little jealous of people who seem to have a clear purpose, when I was reminded of the story of one of the greatest abolitionists of all time. The guy was born into a persecuted people group, but ended up being raised in a super privileged position. Eventually he decided he wanted to bring justice to his people. He tried to use his privilege to force a change, but it basically failed so he ran away to live in seclusion.

 

Years passed, and he raised a family, created a new career, and moved on with his life. But as the story goes, that was not to be his destiny.

Light and dark passing lanes.

This tale from the ancient Hebrew scriptures has an interesting plot twist. Moses, the abolitionist in question, was out in the wilderness guiding sheep, when he saw a burning bush. Now, most westerners think this is the important point, but it’s not. This most interesting thing to me, is that the bush was not consumed. It says in the Torah that Moses was not curious about the bush burning but wanted to go see “why the bush does not burn up” (Ex 3:3).

 

Here is why this story is interesting to me. It’s when Moses finds something that burns but is not consumed that he is reminded of the fire that lived in him all along. Whether you think the voice of God speaks to people or not, the bush plays a symbolic role in the story. It symbolizes the thing that has been in Moses all along, the heart of an abolitionist. This heart-cry was like a fire in his chest, but even after years in the desert with a totally different career, the fire had not burned up his purpose.

My overgrown aloe playing fast and loose with the setting sun. I wonder why it has those tiny useless soft thorns?

If you are anything like me, there are a lot of fires that can burn in your heart. There are only a few that never go out. If you’re feeling like your life has changed from one of purpose to one living on the backside of the wilderness with a bunch of dumb sheep (Ex 3:1), maybe look at your heart. Can you identify a fire that has burned but never consumed? It could be a place of pain and failure, like with Moses. It could be something as simple as a passion to adopt a cat or as grand as a desire to free children from sex slavery. Maybe you need to make a career change and quit corporate security to open that florist shop, or just take a risk and re-enter the dating scene.  

Without judgment, without comparison, without presuppositions of relative value, ask yourself – is there something in me that has burned but never been consumed?

I love the patterns that occur so exquisitely in the most mundane leaf.

Pain is in the story, but it’s the fire that keeps us going. We all know the story of Moses. When he remembered that he was made for a purpose, that there was a fire in his heart that burned but never consumed, he went on to lead the greatest abolitionist campaign in the history of the world.