Take Off Your Shoes

“Shoes in a brook are only for the overcautious, for those who would not dare to risk a stubbed toe. But there is no way to go through life without stubbed toes. At least there is no beautiful way – no holy way.”     -Macrina Wiederkehr

I’m turning 55 in a couple of weeks. Fifty-five sounds like a number that should be somehow significant. I can’t even really call myself middle-aged anymore… not unless I live to be 110. Birthdays have a way of making us stop and take notice.

Brennan Manning says in The Ragamuffin Gospel that between the ages of 30 and 60, most of us experience a “second call”.  He says it begins “when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program”. He invites us to lay aside fear and procrastination and embrace our second journey.

I’ve been pretty consumed lately with trying to figure out my second call. Which race I’m going to run in this next season of life. Should I focus on my career as a counselor, grow my practice, expand my knowledge base, or perhaps develop an area of specialty?

Should we design and build that community of houses we’ve been dreaming about for so long?

Should I pour myself wholeheartedly into becoming an advocate for orphans or for the poorest of the poor or the trafficked or the persecuted?

I want to do all of these things. And living in the location and the time in history in which we reside, I am blessed to have the freedom to choose. Women in the U.S. in my age group, compared with much of the world’s population, have unprecedented amounts of health & wealth & education. What will we do with it? These are the things at the forefront of my mind these days.

I look ahead and I see a new chapter opening. It’s full of promise & possibility.

But lurking underneath is this fear that I’ll do nothing. That my tendency toward the comfortable and the familiar will overcome my desire to be poured out. There are those voices telling me “You can’t do this. This is way too big for you. You’ll surely fail. Don’t even waste your time.”

I recently read the story in Exodus where God calls to Moses from a burning bush. He is about to give Moses the assignment to lead His people out of slavery. But first God tells him to take off his shoes, because he is standing on holy ground.

He says the same thing to Joshua when He calls him to lead the people into the Promised Land. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”

If only God would call out to me and give me a clear assignment! Then I wouldn’t have to stress over making a potentially bad choice and wasting a bunch of time and resources. If only He still showed up in burning bushes and told us to take off our shoes.

But wait…

perhaps He does.

Perhaps He showed up in the encouraging counsel from a friend or the sunshine peeking out after the rainstorm or in a song or in that gentle moment while your kids were sleeping or in words jumping off the page.

Here’s the problem. I can get so consumed with trying to figure out which path to choose and trying to muster the courage to move into deeper waters that I walk right past the burning bush. In the midst of good and righteous pursuits, I can lose sight of the Righteous One.

Maybe it matters less which race I run than the way I run it. Is it born out of a love that flows straight from God through me and spills out on those around me? Then it is kingdom work. And it matters.

I sense Him calling me to take off my shoes… shoes of distraction & worry & self-sufficiency … whatever keeps me from being a child of wonder, and to allow myself to feel the absolute AWE of this holy God who makes Himself present and available.

Friend, the sacred is all around you. Take off your shoes.

“If you should ever hear God speaking to you from a burning bush, and it happens more often than most of us realize, take off your shoes, for the ground on which you stand is holy.  The ground you are is holy.”  (Macrina Wiederkehr, Seasons of Your Heart)

Alyssa BellComment