Posted by: geolocke | 2015/05/23

Standing On Holy Ground

Like most folks I have different footwear for different purposes. My black wingtips for fancy dress, steel-toed safety shoes for work, ‘sneakers’ for exercise and general running around, and sandals for messing around the house and yard. But my favorite footwear, far and above all other choices, is my own bare feet.

As a child I always ran around the house barefoot and in the summertime you would only see me wearing shoes in church or when I was out with my parents. I still remember the delicious feel of mud squishing up between my toes and the feel of cool water when wading in the creek and the slippery rocks under my feet found among the sandy islets along the stream banks.  At the beach my favorite pastime was wiggling my feet in the wet sand until I started to sink into the cool dampness along the shore, then shrieking in delight when my wiggling toes touched something that wiggled back.

Walking barefoot in the southern summers, I learned important things like concrete is cooler than asphalt, but on the hottest days, even the concrete gets hot.  And after a summer rain, walking in the puddles along the street proved interesting in that I could feel both the heat of the pavement and the coolness of the rainwater at the same time. Walking across a gravel lot was sometimes painful, but once crossed I felt such a sense of accomplishment, like I had just succeeded in doing something great and tremendous.

When I began driving in my teen years, I would often drive barefoot, or in sandals during the winter with the heat blasting.  That old ’68 Plymouth just drove better barefoot. I could feel exactly how the car was behaving with nothing between my feet and the pedals.  The vibrations I felt through my feet let me know how well the engine was performing and how good the brakes were grabbing. My dad always fussed at me about not wearing shoes when driving. “You’ll need shoes if you’re ever in a wreck” he’d state. So as a compromise, I kept a pair of shoes in the car with me, right there on the passenger seat.

Today I still take my shoes off first thing when I come home from somewhere. The feel of cool tile helps sooth my feet, and the rough feel of the wood on my deck lights up my senses. Walking around my yard I enjoy the cool dampness of the garden dirt or the rough sandpaper-like feel of the concrete drive and the cold layers of the slate walking stones.  Granted, there are also twigs and tulip poplar nettles and pine cone petals with their sharp points that catch me by surprise, but they are more of a bother than a problem.

Archeological excavations have found that some of our most ancient ancestors were buried with footwear, so it seems possible to me that protecting their feet was of great importance and perhaps even gave them some advantage in surviving in the wild ages of pre-history. I remember reading somewhere that some of the most sensitive nerves in our bodies are in our feet. A single grain of sand in my shoe once proved that to me. There are some real dangers to walking barefoot outside. In the past I’ve been injured by broken glass, rusty cans and nails, leading to cuts and punctures, stitches and tetanus shots, so I try to be careful. But all in all, the rewards for me far outweigh the potential dangers of going barefoot outdoors.

As children, once we learn to walk, we never go back to crawling. We start running and jumping and dancing and skipping about. I am reminded about the story from the Acts of The Apostles when Peter and John cure the cripple at the gate of the temple and how he got up and started dancing about, how he must have felt like a little child once more.

For me walking barefoot outside helps bring me a little close to all God’s creation by forcing me to spend a little more time focusing on where I place my feet, and as a result, noticing some of God’s little creatures that live out their lives creeping and crawling upon the earth beneath me. I feel more connected to God’s creation when my feet touch bare earth.

Upon reflection it seems to me that God really cares about our feet. It is not the first thing on my mind when reading and studying the Holy Scriptures, but it is there. When Moses first approaches the burning bush in the desert he is warned to remove his sandals because the ground he is standing on is Holy ground. When the paralytic’s friends carry him to be healed only to be blocked by the crowds, they lift him up to the roof, then breaking through the roof, they lower him before Jesus, who heals him by telling him to pick up his mat and go home. Then there’s the woman who bathes Christ’s feet with her tears and dries them with her hair, being very grateful because of the great mercy that was shown her when her many sins were forgiven. And of course at the last supper, when Christ, the master, teacher, and Lord of all takes off his outer garment, ties a towel about his waist, and performs a servant’s duty by washing the feet of the apostles, instructing them to do likewise for one another.

As I go about my daily routines, I sometimes pause and think about what this all means to me. Am I willing to tie on the towel and serve those who look up to me? Am I truly grateful for all the blessings and gifts that have been bestowed upon me, especially the gift of mercy? If I have friends in dire straights, how far am I willing to carry them, to act as their feet, in order to provide them with healing and comfort? Sometimes the answers to those questions lead me to deeper reflection. And so I come home and remove my shoes and walk barefoot in the garden and ponder these questions further, being careful where I place my feet, because I never really know when I might be standing on Holy ground.

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