This week has been marked by the sad demise of my sandals, and after seven and a half years it is time to take them off for the last time. As I do so, inspired by something I was asked to write a few months ago, the verse “Take off your shoes for this is holy ground”, God’s call to Moses from the burning bush, comes to mind. Appropriate, perhaps, that I should be writing this post today when God again calls his disciples to remove their shoes. There is a symbolism of service as Jesus washes his disciples feet, but maybe also a reminder that this ground, this place of encounter, this shared meal, this experience of the every day, is our Holy Ground. A recognition of this place as Holy Ground is the context in which self-giving service becomes a reality.
The death of my sandals, originally bought for our trip to Peru in 2004 is a chance to reflect on some of the Holy Ground they, and I have walked on these past few years. All told, my sandals and I have covered a good few miles (and that’s without counting the miles it has been far too cold to cover in sandals!).
Iquitos in the Amazon jungle was my first experience of visiting a very different and considerably poorer part of the world and my time there undoubtedly contributed significantly to where I am today. Since leaving the Amazon jungle, my Holy Ground has spread out to cover quite a few places in the UK and Europe, as well as a few further afield.
I have walked on Holy Ground in many parts of the UK and Europe surrounded by natural beauty (and sometimes manmade ugliness). I have walked on Holy Ground in Cuba, where despite the imperfections and abuses, there is evidence of a semi-successful attempt to work with a model different to the dominant god of Capitalism. I have walked on Holy Ground in the Philippines, first in the North meeting producers of recycled, far-trade products and being inspired by the reality of making a difference (www.fairgrounds.org.uk) and now here in Cebu. I have walked in Taizé, where the Holiness is tangible, holy ground I walk away from each time refreshed and renewed.
My journey across my Holy Ground is a journey which has taken me to a lot of different places in a lot of different ways. It is a journey that has taken me far from home as well as to more familiar surroundings. It is a journey over ground which is easy to recognise as holy, and ground where you have to search for holiness. It is a journey of walking to meet many, many friends old and new. It is a journey which has opened my eyes to different realities and moved me to new places. It is a journey of growth and change (although not of shoe size, fortunately!) My holy ground is truly a complex patchwork of places, people and experiences.
It is a journey I feel hugely privileged to be walking. All of this is my Holy Ground, and with a new pair of sandals, it is time to keep on walking.