Saturday, July 14, 2012
TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES
The house is so quiet. My sweet husband took the boys with him to the grocery store, to give me a few moments of peace on my birthday. Did I mention it was my birthday? Oh, and not just any birthday. Today I turn 40.
My uncle sent me an email this morning congratulating me, and then told me that 40 is the new 30, so I could just tell people I'm thirty today. But I think it is significant, special, to reach this milestone. I will not shrink back from my age. Those years have been hard earned. I have made up my mind to love 40.
More than that, I love the meaning of 40. It seems to be one of God's favorite numbers. When He made it rain on Noah, it rained for 40 days and nights. When Moses fled to the wilderness as a fugitive, God had him shepherd Jethro's sheep for 40 years. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they rested in that same wilderness for 40 years. When Jesus came out of His baptismal waters the Spirit drove Him into the desert for 40 days. I've decided that if God thinks enough of 40 to include it in His story over and over, I will think highly of it too.
I believe God gave me an early gift last week on the mountain, to take home with me. It was the last morning we spent there. We were all scrubbed and brushed and packed and loaded and ready to go. As a family we were to sit in on a casual praise and prayer service before leaving. I mentioned to Tim I wanted to walk the prayer labyrinth before our departure. Since we were early for that morning service on the mountain he encouraged me to go ahead.
Situated by the lake, next to a small chapel, the labyrinth path winds round and round. It looks like a maze, but it is really one path. As I entered I felt a holy nudge to breathe deep, and then take off my shoes. Yes, Lord. Feet flopping in a circuitous trench, stepping over and around goose droppings, I began to wonder of the wisdom of such obedience. And then the images and stories came to mind. Moses on a mountain, staring in wonder at a burning bush, burning yet not burning up, not burning away. Don't things burn readily in dry places? And yet nothing burns without also being consumed. And it is this attention to such a stunning yet obscure detail that draws him close to the Presence of the Almighty. Almighty says to him, "Take off your shoes; THIS IS HOLY GROUND."
I walk. Purposefully. Aware of the limitation of time, the morning dew kissing my feet and smearing it with trodden path grime. God says to me, "Take off your shoes." And I become aware that the ground He is calling me to walk in reverence has nothing to do with the mountain I am standing on but everything to do with the life He has given me. It is significant to me that God did not speak such a Holy Word to Moses the deliverer. God spoke so boldly to Moses the shepherd. And God did not speak such a Holy Word to Sami the one I will be, but to Sami as I am now: the mother of small boys; the wife of an assistant principal; the preschool teacher; the writer with a only a blog to show for it. And God says to me here and now, when spectacular is the last word anyone would choose to describe me: "TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES."
God has His reasons.
I am so full of love for Him. I love Him. Not that I do it well, but my heart is only happy when He is the biggest part of it. And I am so full of the wonder of the significance of this number 40, that I made it this far, that I am a woman I like keeping company with, that I've learned so much in all those years of living, that nothing in me wants to give up anymore, that I want to live the next 40 as fully and even better than I did the first. And I think of all these things and decide that 40 for me is not so much about asking God for something as much as it is feeling like "how can I not give Him something for helping me make it to here?" What do you give the God of the universe? I call God "God" so much, and Father, that I forget it is God the Almighty Holiness that speaks these words to me. So I decide, and oh this is so hard to do, I decide to give Him my trust. Oh God I choose to trust You. With the next 40 years of course. But more significantly with the next 4 minutes. With the next 4 hours. With the next 4 weeks. With the next 4 years. It's harder to give that kind of radical trust in smaller increments isn't it?
When Moses took off his shoes it was the first step in a journey that would change his everything forever. I believe when we take of ours such a gesture has the power to do the same thing. Not because of anything extraordinary about our circumstances, but because the HOLY permeates the mundane ground we walk on. Because it is a recognition that ALMIGHTY is with us. ALMIGHTY knows us and calls us by name. ALMIGHTY is situating our life around a HOLY FIRE that will thoroughly light our lives, but will not consume us. Instead it will illumine a journey that brings us to purpose, meaning, fulfillment. So that our consumation is the joy of being alive. And the world will be forever different because we did.
My dear family has just walked in the door, busy with the hustle and bustle of a birthday dinner to prepare. Gratitude and joy wafting in with the noise of little boys. Oh God, You are so good.