Take Your Shoes Off

Take Your Shoes Off

It was a little more than 30 years ago when I was driving from Nashville to Raleigh in my old car. We had just accepted the call to pastor the struggling campus church, and because our house wouldn’t sell in North Carolina, Denise and the kids stayed behind. After a few weeks at my new church, I decided to head back to check on the family.

We were broke, had taken a pay cut, the car needed repairs on the way, and it was hot. I was miserable and tense, worried and anxious. On that drive, I strangled the steering wheel and gritted my teeth.

Soon I came to the Great Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountains are a special place for me because it was our family vacation spot when I was a child. Denise and I honeymooned there, and then spent many breaks there with our young daughters.

And as I began to drive into this special place, I noticed something.

My grip on the steering wheel just sort of lightened up, and my neck muscles eased. I stopped gritting my teeth, and I began to remember all of the wonderful moments that had happened in that place—on that mountain.

And I did the craziest thing; I slipped my shoes off. I was driving through the Smoky Mountains barefooted, feeling the vibrations of the car rolling across that wonderful place for me.

I’m glad there are places like that where somehow God meets us, and we begin to feel through the vibrations of our soul the very communications of the God who knows where we are and knows what we’re facing and what life is all about.

I’m glad there are sacred places where God comes near. Where Father God embraces us, and Brother Jesus encourages us, and Sister Spirit comforts us in every way. Places where you can take your shoes off in a world like this.

You know the story of Moses and the burning bush?

One day in Midian, as Moses is tending sheep, he goes up to Mount Horeb. While he is up there the bush burns but doesn’t turn to ashes. A voice speaks out of the bush and says, “Moses, Moses,” and Moses says, “Here I am, Lord.”

God says to Moses, “Pharaoh is mistreating my people who are down in Egypt, and I’m going to send you to be the one to say to him, ‘Let my people go.’ And you’ll bring my people back to this very spot, this holy mountain, and there they will worship me.”

And then God says to Moses, “I want you to take your shoes off because the place where you are standing right now is holy ground.”

Shoes. It’s interesting to me that God’s interested in shoes. These protective coverings for our feet that keep us from stepping on sharp objects. They protect us from hot and cold surfaces. They keep our feet clean and have also become fashion statements and status symbols. In the South, shoes represent a kind of sophistication because there’s a sense in which the world thinks that those who go barefoot are uncouth.

And here comes God, in this Exodus 3 story, showing up on a holy hill, speaking to Moses, “You can take your shoes off here.” Take off your status symbols, your fashion statements, your need to impress, your defensive postures, take off your fear of being judged and feel the very vibrations of God speaking through your soles to your soul.

Now I’ll admit – in a world like the one where we live, probably the smartest thing to do is reach for steel-toed boots, so nobody can really step on your toes. Put on boots with thick soles so that nobody can hurt you from underneath.

But God says to Moses and to us, “Be vulnerable in my presence such that you would take your shoes off and let me speak to you and tell you what your life is to be about in a world like this.”

We have the opportunity, as Moses did, to stand on holy ground and feel God through the very vibration of our soul. A God who knows us by name, calls us by name, and gives us very serious work to do.

Wherever you are right now in life—a student, an executive, a teacher, a parent—look for the holy places in your life. I may not know you, where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing 10 years from now, but I do know that God calls you to take seriously the opportunity that lies before you.

He invites you onto holy ground where you’ll be formed in the likeness of his Son, Jesus, so that you might be the kind of person to be God’s answers to the prayers of others when they cry because of our broken world.

You will be ready to step into those moments because in this kind of moment you took your shoes off, and you felt—through the very vibration of your being—the call of God to take life seriously now.

Don’t miss the bush on the holy mountain that burns with a holy fire and speaks your name, calling you to do serious work. If you miss that, my heart will grieve for you. But if you say, “Here I am Lord. What’s up?” then buckle up.

You’re on the best journey you could ever imagine.


  1. Truly, there is peace, mercy, and power when we are vulnerable before God. A formal, daily prayer time can be a burning bush experience. I’d be lost without it.

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