When Moses was shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, he saw a bush on fire, flaming but not being consumed. He found that a little strange. He said to himself, I’m going to take a minute and check this out. Because here’s something you don’t see every day. I wonder why the bush isn’t burnt?
Because he stopped and because he looked, the Lord spoke to Moses out of the bush. He called him by his name, because that’s what the Lord does, and he asked Moses to take off his shoes. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning said: Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees
takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
How do I become the one who sees? Can I figure out when the presence of God is near, when I’m on Holy Ground, and remove my shoes? How can I find the divine in the drudgery?
When my kids were little, needy and demanding and helpless, I’m afraid my first reaction to a burning bush would be to toss a bucket of water on it. One more emergency to deal with. One more demand on my time and sanity.
When they were bigger, I think my reaction would be different. All right you people. Who has been playing with matches? You know the rules. You’re all busted.
Some days, don’t you feel too tired to care? After work and dinner and cleaning and dishes and homework and dentist appointments and practices and laundry and family night and concerts and presidency meetings and emergency room visits and games and meets and matches and scripture study, could you (like I could) look over your shoulder as you flop onto the couch and say, “Huh. That bush is on fire. Hope it doesn’t singe the furniture. Pass the remote.”
And when the kids are grown and gone, are there times we peek under beds and search out fingerprinty windows, desperate to regain a tiny portion of that sweet innocence, only to ignore the flaming bush in the middle of the room?
The Lord wants us to recognize the “great sight” in our path. He rewarded Moses for turning aside, seeking out the miracle. We will also be rewarded for seeking out the miracles.
There are plenty of barefoot moments in motherhood. Some of them are messy, some of them are funny; some are precious and sweet and sacred. All these moments testify that God is near.
Do you remember the first time you took your fussy baby out of church and walked the halls, muttering about why am I doing this? I’m getting nothing out of these meetings, and we’re disturbing everyone within a fifty-foot radius only to have that little person hang over your shoulder, lean behind you, point to a painting of the Savior and say “Jesus.” Remember that you didn’t even think that child knew that word? Remove thy shoes.
Remember the time you came downstairs because you heard someone crying? Grumble, grumble – these kids are always fighting. I’ll give them something to cry about. Here you come, ready to dispense justice, and find your youngest cradled in the arms of an older sibling who’s kissing away the hurt and coaxing a smile and a laugh from behind the tears. Take thy shoes from off thy feet.
Remember that one time – that one time – you got that note, that email, that text that said, “Thank you, Mom”? Remove thy shoes.
And watch them, as adults, choose each other as best friends. See them seeking out each others’ company. Listen to them laugh together, remembering the happy times that are buried somewhere in your memory, under piles of muddy shoes and broken dishes and dents in cars and angry words. The memories are there. Take thy shoes from off thy feet.
We can train our eyes to see the “bush afire with God” – to notice the things that could not be, without the influence of the Lord. If I want that gift, that ability, I only need to ask for it, to work for it. To write it down when I see it.
And when we stop, and remove our shoes from off our feet, we can hear the Lord call us by name and remind us that the place we stand is holy ground, the position we hold is ordained of God, the people we nurture are really His children.