Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
I don’t like to wear shoes; they’ve never been my thing. As a child I got in trouble regularly for running around without shoes then bringing dirt into the house. If I can go barefoot, I do– parks, beaches, school, work, you name it I’m barefoot… but I never took off my shoes because I thought those places were holy.
Churches are holy. Churches are where we worship and break bread; where we celebrate and mourn; and where we go to intentionally be in relationship with God. Growing up my family and I went to church most Sundays. I was taught about the parts of the church, and the sacraments we celebrate in the church, and I was taught to respect the church… because the church is a holy place.
There are a few places I considered holy before last summer. Churches, Montreat, the labyrinth in the woods behind the church I was raised in. These were the places I saw God– the places where I was intentionally in worship, in community, and in prayer. It wasn’t that I didn’t see God in other places, but I don’t think I ever took the time to reflect on ordinary places enough to notice them as holy ground.
Working at Raleigh Youth Mission last summer changed that for me. It was clear from our first worksite of the summer that this organization and community were far from ordinary. That morning I was leading a group at Love Wins. Due to maintenance issues, the hospitality house had to close it’s doors for the day leaving us to work in their community garden outside. Throughout the morning we watched as people approached the building to find the doors locked, and most looked a bit lost when we told them that their community was closed for the day. What was it about this place that made people feel lost to not have it for a day?
Later on that same week, we were in Moore Square playing lawn games, making bracelets, and handing out popsicles to anyone who wanted one. Soon members of the Raleigh community were playing and laughing with us over popsicles. As I introduced myself to people I was struck by how many took an interest in me, wanting to know where I came from and what my interests were. I left the park that day feeling loved and cared for in a way I never had before because it was a love from complete strangers. What was it about a park and popsicles that made me feel so cared for?
As the summer continued I began to realize that the places I was most taken aback by were places that I considered ordinary, and that by considering those places “ordinary” I was keeping myself from experiencing God in them.
Since last summer I have continuously found places I once thought ordinary to be holy, whether it was a management professor that provided examples relating to ministry in a business course, or a friend that knew exactly when I needed a long walk or a coffee…
I have found holy places everywhere.
Coming back to Raleigh this summer, though I will keep my worksite appropriate shoes on, I am very aware that everywhere I go I am walking on holy ground. In the past year I’ve learned that the spectrum of holy to ordinary is not a long one, and that there really is no in-between. God is everywhere:
in the people you know, in the people you meet, in the people passing by… really anywhere God’s people come together: that’s a holy place.