Happy new year!
May I ask where your feet are right now? Are they in cozy slippers or thick wool socks? Or gloriously stretched out to a fire? Will you shove them into a pair of winter boots later on? Perhaps they are tiptoeing around the crumbs on the kitchen floor, leftovers of last night’s party?
In the waning minutes of 2022, I was meditating on a few famous lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Aurora Leigh.”
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 it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
And then it hit me, how I want to walk into the new year – barefoot. Browning’s words resonate in the deep places of my soul and my beliefs about God. God is found in the familiar spaces of our lives. He is a commonplace God. First comes the eyes to see Him, often disguised or dulled by our disenchanted vision. Then comes the response – to stop and take off our shoes.
When Moses tiptoed over to that burning bush, the fiery Voice told him to take off his sandals because this was now holy ground. This action is something ancient priests would have done as they entered the temples of their deities, to prevent bringing impurities into a holy place. Yahweh made a temple of a common desert shrub to pull Moses into His presence. And Moses responded by loosening the leather ties of his own wanderings and stepping into the purpose of God.
Barefoot – leaving the dust of his own path behind. Barefoot – sense of touch heightened to the subtleties of sacred ground. Barefoot – vulnerable to the Mystery that claimed him by name.
This poem is my own response to Browning’s imagery and a prayer for the year ahead.
Let this be the year you catch me
barefoot in the blackberry patch,
and the kitchen din,
the track-worn tread up the back road,
and the quiet, child’s bedside.
Oh child, behold.
Let my toes dig deep into spark-warmed soil,
grounded in the love that bedrocks every landscape.
Oh child, be called.
Keep me rooted to the holy place
till even my soles have eyes for glory,
and they can see their way to run the mountains
with beautiful news.
Oh child, be swift.
May you, too, be drawn into many barefoot moments in 2023.