Remove your sandals, for you are walking on holy ground!
Every summer of my childhood my family would load up in the Suburban (six kids, two adults, often a dog, fish, or cat (Oreo had six kittens under my sisters bed one summer!), trunks full of clothes, and a bag full of jelly bellies and head to the South Carolina coast. Without ipads and car TV’s, we kiddos entertained ourselves with guessing the flavor of jelly beans until the bag was empty! As soon as we crossed the bridge onto the island of Kiawah, my dad would roll down the windows and we would take our first big gulp of the salty sweet air. But most memorable was running down the sun-bleached boardwalk to see the ocean for the first time!
Even then, hair twisted in braids, beaming with innocence, and probably holding fast to one of my younger sisters’ sticky hands, I practiced reverence for the glory of that beautiful stretch of sandy beach and cobalt blue sea. Like a spiritual practice, I would unbuckle each one of my sandals and lay them to the side of the boardwalk before stepping down into the sand. Curling my feet in the hot sand, I knew deeply that I was walking on holy ground.
In Exodus 3:5, God said to Moses,”Remove the sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.” What God was really asking Moses to do was notice the holiness before him, all around him, and especially inside of him. I fear we rarely take off our sandals for anything in this day and age. Either we are too busy, self-absorbed, callus, or jaded to see the “sacred” in the world. What happened to stopping to smell the roses? I believe it was Einstein who said, “There are two ways to live your life: One as though nothing is a miracle; the other as though everything is.” In every breath, we are given the choice of how we honor and experience the tender heart, the creative mind, and the beautiful soul of God in the world.
In his famous collection of letters (the book is, “the Practice of the presence of God”), the monk, brother Lawrence, said to be faithful one must “practice the presence of God” in all things. I have a dear friend who I swear could drink the nectar from a honeysuckle and think she tasted gold. What I mean is that her eyes and especially her heart is ever-seeking the wonder, the mystery, the joy, the very living presence of God in every person, place, and experience of her life. She sees God’s footprint everywhere and let me tell you she bears a soul that is bursting with light from every beautiful seam! She literally glows! The air is certainly sweeter when you are in her presence.
We must pay better attention to where the Divine is brushing against our lives, and then honor those sacred moments with reverence and gratitude. I have always loved the line in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “GLORY be to God for dappled things”—The dappled things—I know them as the twinkling gold aspen leaves every autumn in Jackson Hole, the exquisitely perfect curve of a smile on my daughter Rose’s face, the chameleon sunsets that spray pink, lavender and crimson across the Nashville sky on hot summer nights, and that’s just a start! What a beautiful way to live—as a treasure-hunter—the treasures being all the places where we get a glimpse of God’s presence, where living grace touches our lives here on earth.
The world is waiting for us to notice the holiness in it! We just need to open our eyes and our hearts, and acknowledge the holy ground before us, around us, and tucked deep inside of us. The sweet secret of life is found in the art of looking for the ‘soul of God’ in creation. Life can be cruel, dark, and unpredictable but it can also be so full of light, joy, and beauty. What glasses are you looking through to see the world?
Have you ever considered that an encounter with another human being, an owl at Radnor Lake, enjoying a juicy sweet peach from South Carolina, holding hands with a child, or walking at the edge of the ocean might just be the closest we will ever get to brushing up against God on this side of heaven? Maybe we should start bowing our heads in these sacred moments, naming them for what they are…the Divine breaking through in our midst.
Symbolically or literally… let’s take off our shoes, bow our heads in gratitude, and acknowledge the holy ground before us!
I gift you with a prayer from Henri Nouwen:
“From now on, wherever you go and wherever you are, all of the ground between us will be holy.”
Live in Hope,