holy ground

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

― Elizabeth Barrett Browning


A few weeks ago, teaching from Luke 14: 25-35, my pastor shared this quote, and it stopped me in my tracks. He said, “It’s naive to think we can meet and hear from God in the midst of all of our distractions.  We have to sacrifice time and attention…”

Pondering this idea of creating space… even in the midst of mundane, to meet with God…Creating space to slow and see…

As I kept returning to this Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote, I found myself back in Exodus 3, peering into that famous scene where Moses meets God for the first time. As familiar as the story is, I noticed something anew.

Scripture says that Moses, the former prince turned shepherd, while leading his flock of smelly sheep on the “far side of the wilderness” at the mountain of God, sees a bush a flame but not consumed. “…for our God is indeed a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

As the story continues, Moses decides to stop and take a closer look at this marvel.

He stops to see, saying, “I will turn aside to see this great sight…”

There, in the midst of his dusty day, Moses makes a choice to ‘turn aside’ which in the Hebrew can mean “to leave undone” and also “to be taken away”. Moses let this sight pull him into the presence of God, leaving the shepherding work undone.

Scripture then says, “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush…” (emphasis mine). God took notice of Moses’ notice. Would God have spoke had Moses failed to stop and see, leaving other things lacking to encounter The Wonder?

Like Moses, maybe today, you feel like you find yourself on the far side of your wilderness, with a dusty, smelly heard of sheep or little humans or big humans…thinking to yourself, how could this day, these moments, add up to something holy. But somewhere in that ordinary day, God is fashioning an ordinary bush to pull you into His glory. Can you sacrifice the time to see?

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Exodus 3, reflects on this truth that I think applies to us too, “Moses saw more of God in the desert than he had ever seen in Pharaoh’s court.”

“Those that would have communion with God must attend upon him, and approach to him, in those ordinances wherein he is pleased to manifest himself, and his power and glory, though it be in a bush; they must come to the treasure, though in an earthen vessel. Those who seek God diligently shall find him, and find him their bountiful rewarder. God called him by name, ‘Moses, Moses’. This which he heard could not but surprise him much more than what he saw. The word of the Lord always went along with the glory of the Lord…”

And here is what I can’t shake: this communion with God we think we don’t have time for…it leads to the life we are all really seeking and the deep rest we so desperately need.

“If we are to know rest at all in this life, it will have to be like this–a time when we stop; a time when we celebrate what is, in all its goodness and blessing; a time when we suffer or allow some things to still be lacking. At its core, to rest is to give thanks for the present and to trust that, as the future becomes the present, God will supply what we need….relationship with [Him].” –Sally Breedlove, Choosing Rest.

So leave something lacking today to take a closer look at the wonder around you, to trust God and be taken away into His presence. He is waiting to call you by name.

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