Last year I felt God speaking to me about going barefoot, to feel the world under my feet, to bring me down close. But it was still early spring here and far too cold for naked feet inside, let alone out. So I put it off, thinking it sounded more like a ‘Lent thing’.
While I enjoy going barefoot from time to time, I rarely do it away from my home. Often I’ll take my shoes off in church to be barefoot during worship, God’s words to Moses from the burning bush struck a chord with me years ago, and combined with troublesome joints I feel more secure, and therefore freer to let go in worship, when in bare feet. But that’s where it stops. Or it did.
A month or so ago I looked up the date for the beginning of Lent, and thought some more about going barefoot. I had a few half-days of ‘practice’, to see how my feet and body would handle it, but I hadn’t committed. The first time I walked around my university barefoot I nearly cried with how we had plastered over nature with concrete, boxing her in to carefully managed spaces. It was rough on my feet, like we have been rough on this world.
Yesterday Lent began and I didn’t really have any excuses; I went barefoot. Wednesdays for me include a ten-minute walk to my daughter’s school in the morning, over rough and broken concrete, a bit of gravel, and often broken glass, before reaching dry and prickly grass. I had to keep my focus on where I was stepping, slow down, be aware of what I was walking over, to see where nature had dropped her twigs, where the passing cars had scattered stones.
I felt myself grounding, sinking down into simply being in the place I was, not in my thoughts, really touching the world beneath me. It was strange, because it shouldn’t take being barefoot to sink us down into this world, but our shoes are just one layer insulating us against this world God has placed us in, both the environment and other people.
I was more aware of the heat of the sun as my feet walked over the hot concrete, the softness of carpet, the cool smoothness of lino, the lush vibrancy of green grass.
I’m still not sure whether I will do the whole 40 days of Lent, I am taking it one day at a time. I’m barefoot again today, day two, though today I elected to bike to work, less walking, but even the act of cycling seemed more connected to my body, easier somehow, maybe there was less in the way.
I want this in my relationship with God too, less in the way, a closeness beyond what I’m used to, a sinking down into my place as God’s child. Connecting with the immediate world around me draws me closer to the God who set it all in motion, who holds it all in place by Awesome Creative Power.
And I am humbled by the immensity of it all, how I am just a small creature wending my way through it all, stepping over this twig, around those stones, between those holes. Yet God draws close to us, God chooses to draw us close (see John 6:44). Despite our smallness, God chooses to work with us in building the Kingdom, loves us so much that our gifts and skills are invited to be used, welcomed with open arms and delight.