Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Take Off Your Crocs

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

One of the great injustices of my life is the fact that crocs were not around when my children were toddlers. Sure, we had the little tennis shoes with Velcro straps. That was a good thing – but having those spongy rubbery slip-on crocs would have been great, especially at Chic-fil-a.

In our culture there are not many places where we practice the custom of removing our shoes. For grown ups, I don’t know of any place where we do this. A bowling alley may be a minor exception, but then we’re removing our own shoes (which we like) and putting on goofy bowling shoes (which we otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead in). We’re still shod. However, children regularly remove their shoes when they romp around in the play place at Chic-fil-a. This ritual is practiced at other such shrines to high-caloric chaos such as Chuck E Cheese and McDonalds. Wherever the indoor play place is found, the shoes come off.

This used to annoy me. I silently wanted my kids to defy the rules and keep their shoes on. The focal point of my irritation was the challenge of getting shoes back on my kids’ feet. Bottom line: taking shoes off in a public place is inconvenient. It’s true of kids in the play place. It’s true of grown ups in airport security lines. Taking our shoes off slows us down, hinders our capacity to move, to set the pace at which we live. We feel somewhat exposed and vulnerable. Moving around Hartsfield-Jackson in your sock feet isn’t impressive. It feels strange and a little embarrassing.

That very dynamic is at work when God tells Moses to take off his shoes before the bush that’s on fire but isn’t burning up. Yes, the shoes collected the dirt and refuse of the ground, but the shoes were also representative of strength. Jewish scholar Nahum Sarna says that a shepherd who wore sandals was likely a “white-collar” kind of shepherd, the sandals a kind of status symbol. Moses might have recalled that even back in Egypt it was customary for a person to be barefoot when in the presence of a superior, and especially a King. Removing the shoes isn’t simply about cleanliness, it’s about contrition. To be in the presence of a Holy God means that we are interrupted, we are not in control, we are not setting the agenda of the meeting or pushing the pace at which things happen.

Today you are invited to “take off your sandals”; to recognize that every moment of this day is lived in the presence of Holy God who freely interrupts our plans and agendas, and gives us instead a deep and abiding purpose.

Too often, Holy God, our days are lived without a sense of your powerful presence. We sense the stress of our careers and the demands of our schedules and the needs of others who depend on us. Interrupt us today as you see fit. Teach us how to live every moment in the presence of holiness. Amen.

1 comment:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Interesting thoughts. We really do need to seek the presence of God in our lives.

I suppose adults have to remove their shoes at airport security checkpoints. An important place to show reverance and respect!

It is becoming more common for people to require shoes-off in homes. I dedicated an whole blog to that subject:

Shoes Off at the Door, Please