Yesterday, we visited with some college friends who we haven’t seen since college. Like us, this couple met at Grove City College and married after graduation. The wife of this couple comes from an Asian family. When we entered our house, she asked us to remove our shoes. It is Asian custom to remove your shoes when you enter the house.
This didn’t really phase us at first. It felt very welcoming to know that we could remove our shoes and relax in their home. But later I was thinking about it some more. There is a fairly famous story from Exodus 3 in the Bible that talks about removing ones’ shoes. The story is about Moses and the burning bush. Here’s the beginning of the story:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-6
I’m not completely sure about the reasons for this Asian custom, but I know that in our culture we often overlook God’s holiness. God is holy. In my mind, this means perfect and set apart. Holiness means completely clean and pure. I think there might be something powerful about realizing the holiness of God’s presence.
When Moses approached God’s presence, he could have no barrier between himself and God’s holiness. He also needed to come with humility. I’m not a Biblical scholar (and I don’t play one on TV), but it seems that Moses’ response was the only response that made sense when he realized that God was right there. It would also make sense that we need to approach God with this same humility and transparency.
Wherever God is we are walking on holy ground.
After enjoying the afternoon with these friends, I had a sense that God was there in our conversation and in our time together. These friends who we hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years were certainly instruments of God as they confirmed the importance of taking leaps of faith. Again, I’m not sure about the Asian custom, but I’m convinced that we were stepping onto holy ground when we entered their house. God was there!
Have you ever been on holy ground? What was it like? What was your response?