There are stories we need to hear right now. To listen, we need to let down the walls we’ve built and discard the things that keep us apart. That’s a tall order. It begins with paying attention to how we are all connected. Here’s a story about Moses, who began with letting go the simplest thing.
Moses was taking care of his sheep near the mountain. It was a bright sunny day, but out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something even brighter and shinier that grabbed his attention.
He decided to investigate and, as he got closer, he could see that it was a bush. The bush was on fire, but it wasn’t being burned up. It was the strangest thing he’d ever seen. He thought he should find out more and, as he stepped towards it, he thought he heard something. It sounded like a voice, very far away, but he couldn’t be sure, it was so hard to hear. It seemed to be yelling something, but he could barely make it out. He leaned closer to the bush.
“Moses, take off your shoes,” he thought it said, “you’re standing …” He couldn’t make out the rest.
“I can’t hear you,” Moses shouted back, “can you speak up.”
The voice tried again “Take off your shoes. You’re standing on holy ground.” It was barely a whisper, but he thought that’s what it said.
“I don’t know who you are, but I don’t hear with my feet, I hear with my ears and right now I can’t hear you. Speak louder.”
“Trust me,” the voice said, still a distant whisper, “take off your shoes.”
“Fine” said Moses, and slipped out of his shoes. “But I don’t see how that’s going to help.”
“Can you hear me now?” Suddenly the voice was crystal clear and so loud, it made Moses jump.
“What the … who is this? Where are you?” he demanded.
“It’s God, Moses,” the voice answered, as if from the bush itself, but also, it seemed, everywhere. “I’ve been trying to reach you for some time, but you haven’t heard me. I had to light up the bush to get your attention. I need you to do something.”
“What? But …” stammered Moses, “if you’re God, why couldn’t I hear you?”
“Your shoes, Moses,” said God. “Your shoes. The ground isn’t just holy right here, it’s holy everywhere because I am everywhere. You put something between me and you and it blocks you from hearing me. You disconnect yourself from the earth and you disconnect from me. You might as well have built a wall.”
“But the shoes protect my feet,” said Moses. “And besides, don’t you speak through prophets and priests and holy people?”
Moses heard a very clear and long sigh that seemed to surround him. “Oh Moses,” said God. “I speak through all people and all things because I am in all. My love is in all creation, in the earth, in you, in all people. When you try so hard to protect yourself, you are simply disconnecting from my love. Listen, not only to the people around you, but the world around you. Open your ears, open your mind, open your heart. Don’t be afraid.”
“But I don’t know where to begin,” said Moses quietly.
“You just did,” said God. “You took off your shoes.”