I find it interesting the different ways that the Lord speaks to us as individuals. Either through scripture, other people, a song, or circumstance, He finds a way to whisper His greatness into our lives. The God of the universe waits patiently for a time when our hearts are available and still to sense His wooing, that mysterious tug of the Spirit on our heart. I personally heard His prompting while on my cancer journey. On another occasion, the face of an orphan in Bogota, Colombia bridled my attention. For some, God’s beckoning is through simple life experiences, and for others, the face of death escorts them to a place where they hear from Him. For Moses, the voice of God was heard in a burning bush as Moses hid his face from the Almighty.
Recently, my younger brother heard from the Lord through a large pile of massive tree roots that he ignited into flames. He is a heavy equipment operator and part of his job is clearing land. Pushing dirt, brush, debris and then disposing of the pile is all part of the process of land development, which he has done countless times. However, I don’t believe that he thought for a second when the match was struck on this pile and the burn began that his life would forever change.
Standing six feet, three inches tall, he carries the presence of someone with whom you would not want to recon should he be incited. His giant, paws-for-hands are hard and callused from the manual labor that has provided for his family for some 30 years. He is big and burly and has never been known to pass up a challenging fight. In his late teen years, his stubbornness to walk away from an afternoon scuffle in a roadside ditch with a DPS trooper landed him jail time in serious trouble with the law. It was then that my brother took what he refers to as a “hard left” in life and stayed on that path for many years. He was fearless, afraid of no man. There were times that I was awakened in the night feeling the need to pray on his behalf. He recalls these rebellious times as, “memorable fun”. I call it God’s mercy on him because there were events that should have cost him his life had God not intervened with His grace and mercy to spare him. In God’s sovereign timing, He saved my brother’s life on earth for a specific evening of root burning when, like Moses, he heard from the Lord.
The sun had set as his tired soul sat alone near the roaring pile of burning roots. Nothing heard but popping and hissing from smelting dirt and tree sap as the huge pile of roots appeared hotter than Hell itself. He sat staring into the flames contemplating his soon to be fifty years on this earth and how quickly the years had slipped away. He was reminded of our aging parents and their recent ailments that come with growing old. He pondered his adventurous childhood – driving the old pickup truck to town without his license while Mom and Dad were at work; turning hundreds of white mice loose in the school; forever being grounded but never giving himself room to turn his life around. His childhood mischief turned into an angry rebellion as the years clipped by. My brother was a fighter, having a reputation for this way of existing like our grandfather before him, rebellious living and fighting was a way of life.
The longer he sat studying the hot burn, the clearer the fiery message became. He needed to turn his weary life around. He could hear Dad in his mind sternly telling him during those early years that “children are a gift from the Lord”, and “make sure your children are rooted in the word of God”. Dad told my brother, “plant the seed and grow the roots”. He said, “the roots of your raisin’ will come back to ya if you get lost”. These words fell on deaf ears when spoken by Dad decades ago. However, as the crackling and hissing of the burning roots stole the silence in the darkness and the fierce yellow flames rose higher, the harder it was for him to escape the wise counsel that now so poignantly pierced his thoughts and his heart. Through the knowledge of God’s word that had been rooted in his childhood, my brother realized that the burning flames before him were just a glimpse of what the true Hell of eternity will be like. Dad’s words from long ago gave way to an old Merle Haggard song: the roots of my raising run deep…hope comes no matter how far down I sink, the roots of my raising run deep…In the still darkness, as the flames continued their beckoning, he began to pray, seeking forgiveness from the Lord for all the “memorable fun” he had that he now saw as sin in his life. My brother’s “hard left” down the road to eternal Hell took a “hard right” that night. As with all of us, the roots of our raising run deep.
Click here to listen to The Roots of My Raising by Merle Haggard: http://youtu.be/mOnCFJFeX4g