Persons rarely become present where they are not heartily wanted. ~Dallas Willard
Do you remember the time when Moses was tending sheep in the wilderness of Sinai and saw a flickering fire off in the distance? Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”
God saw that he had stopped to look and called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
Moses said, “Yes? I’m right here!”
God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”
There are times in our walk with God in which we are confronted with the transcendent presence of the holy and we are undone; words seem trivial, actions seem futile. There is nothing to do but be quiet, be still. I fear we have begun to think of God as such a “buddy” and companion that we have lost the grandeur of His majesty. We have made God into such a democrat that we expect Him to be at our beck and call like some cosmic houseboy. I am aware of the fact that Jesus is our friend, brother, and boon companion, but may I also say that He is God, very God. There is an otherness about Him beyond our knowing. There is an over-and-aboveness about Him that exceeds our grasp. The only appropriate response to His presence is one of quiet humility.
When God spoke to Job asking if he was around when the worlds were spoken into existence, Job could do nothing but put his hand over his mouth. When confronted with the presence of God in the Temple, Isaiah could only say, “I am undone.” When Peter went fishing with Jesus, he did not say, “Fish on!” He said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” When Moses approached the fiery manifestation of God, he removed his shoes and later, he hid in the cleft of the rock as the backside of God passed by. A woman anointed Jesus’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her flowing hair. A man approached Jesus and fell at His feet making his requests known to the Lord. Paul saw the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus and fell to the ground. There are places and spaces of holiness in this fallen world that demand an unusual posture from those who would follow Jesus.
What do you see? What do you hear? Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, says,
I used to be able to see flying insects in the air. I’d look ahead and see, not the row of hemlocks across the road, but the air in front of it. My eyes would focus along that column of air, picking out flying insects. But I lost interest, I guess, for I dropped the habit. Now I can see birds.
Blaise Pascal worried that the biggest threat to the spiritual life for folks in his day was their relentless ability to distract themselves from thinking about God.
I was speaking with someone and said I wanted to live a life so compelling that my friends would want to walk closer with God. He stared at me. I could see that he was thinking about something, but I couldn’t tell if the thoughts swirling in his head had anything to do with my statement. He looked down and his chin began to quiver. He stood up and walked a few feet and began to cry. At first just a few tears came, then a few more. No sound; then heavy sighs and inaudible moans, and soon with a full-on lament worthy of Jeremiah. I have witnessed a man weep like that about three times in my life; one of those was me. This went on for about five minutes—wailing. Instantly my pastor’s heart was aroused to offer some comfort, but I couldn’t tell if I wanted to comfort him so that he would feel better or that I would feel better. Is there anything more awkward than seeing a full grown man weep?
I opened my mouth wanting to say: What’s going on inside you? What are you feeling? Do you want to talk about the pain? How can I help you? Do you want to pray? I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. “Shut up,” God said.
So, in spite of my natural tendencies to insert my truncated wisdom where it is not invited, I kept my mouth shut. In time, he wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his brown shirt, blew his nose, cleared his throat, and apologized to me for his emotions. I said nothing. To this day I have no idea what was going on in that moment. What I do know is that I was to give him space—sacred space—to let that moment happen between him and God.
What do you see? What do you hear? I’m calling you to join me in refusing to be distracted by the white noise of this culture. We must slow down. We can’t hear His voice if we are constantly checking social media, watching UN-reality TV, or playing video games. In order to see and hear, we have to be willing to say no to the siren song of cultural distractions and intend to pay attention.
You never know when you will find yourself on holy ground.