Beyond the wilderness

Photo taken on pilgrimage in Tanzania

When I was a second-year student at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, one of the first year students arrived barefoot for the opening service of Morning Prayer.  He came to everything barefoot.  Initially this bothered me, bothered the “genteel” sensibility that was handed down by my mother, the beautiful Sarah Marie.  In time, though, I managed to “mind my own business,” to accept this different way of being and eventually to experience a fondness and appreciation for it.  I want to imagine, now, that he understands something we all need to remember: that we walk on holy ground.

I have been thinking a lot about “holy ground.” What makes ground “holy”?  Often what comes to mind most readily might involve magnificent cathedrals, sacred places, or oft visited pilgrimage sites.  I believe that God is always seeking us out wherever and however we may find ourselves.  God is eager to walk with us, to be in communion with us.  But we wander.  I wander.  Sometimes it is because I am drawn to something shiny and promising in the distance.  Sometimes I am slinking away or running from some part of myself that I am loath to discover.  Before I know it, the grass has gotten high and unruly, full of thorns and spurs.  I can no longer see the path, and the more I dig in, the deeper I go, I find that not only am I in the wilderness, but, perhaps like Moses, I am even beyond it.

At these times, if I pause for even a moment, I can hear God calling my name.  My instinct is to cover my shame at being lost with whatever is found close at hand: denial, rationalization, blame, workaholism or some other distraction or form of escape.  But when I am able to stand still – to allow that God sees me for what and who I am — when I am able to remove the sandals from my feet and accept this unmerited gift of presence and love, then I have half a chance. Then I am on holy ground.  And, if I reach out my hand just a little, I will be shown the way back.

About Mother Beth Tjoflat

Episcopal priest, urban contemplative, playwright, lover of hounds, American of Chilean-Norwegian-Moravian descent. Interests include transformational ministry with the forgotten and marginalized; church planting and congregational development; 12-step spirituality; Hispanic ministry; radical hospitality, and spending time with dear friends.
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