On Sacred Ground

“This life, therefore,
is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness;
not health, but healing;
not being, but becoming;
not rest, but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified”

~ Martin Luther ~

I have noticed, over the past couple of days that, as my feet have crossed the threshold from one day into the next, so too have I entered into a deeper and deeper place of subdued pause.  Granted, I am also exhausted after having been away on a hectic business trip last week, but in a lot of ways, this very trip is what has opened up the portal that led to where I am finding myself to be right now.

It started with me realising that I was in the same part of the country as someone with whom I had once shared and experienced something profound.  I spent some time reflecting upon our online meeting and how he had offered me the gift of his brokenness and humanity.  Before I realised it, waves of memories and emotions coursed through me, until I found myself in a place of quiet and feeling quite subdued and humbled.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, I was misty-eyed…in fact, I am quite misty-eyed as I sit and put this down in writing, this evening.

Reflecting on (let’s call him) Peter and wondering where he is and how he is doing, has heightened my awareness of the blessings that I have encountered in my life.  Some are treasures that have been lying in wait of discovery up till now, while others have been in my awareness for quite some time.  Nonetheless, I am a deeply and beautifully blessed human being and I have so much to be thankful for.

Taking the time, not to count my blessings, but to actually name them is what has brought me to this place of pause.  I have specifically identified four profoundly meaningful moments in my life, and I have made the decision to share them with you over the coming days, because they deserve to be honoured so that my gratitude may be made complete.

I have experienced this time of introspection while having a voice booming internally, “take off your shoes, because you are standing on sacred ground.”  And indeed, it is sacred!

It reminds me of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, where God/Yah/Great Spirit/That-Which-Is-Greater-Than-Us said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  More pause.  More introspection.

Most people have been told that God’s instruction to Moses was based on the creature (Moses) coming into contact with the Creator (God); that it had to with it being a sign of reverence and respect, but that is only partly true.  The sad thing is, as with the rest of the Bible, the human, cultural and practical elements are oftentimes overlooked because of the search for the lofty, yet the lofty and truly awe-inspiring are found in these very elements.

Would you remove your shoes if you were planning to leave somebody’s home?  Or better yet, would you remove your shoes if you had no intention of sticking around?  And I won’t even elaborate on what the consequences would be if one were to remove their shoes and venture out into a cruel terrain that consists of scorching sand, sharp rocks, thorny underbrush and poisonous asps.  If I’m going to walk out there, I want a pair of hiking boots let alone a pair of sandals!

Case in point:  It goes beyond God seeking respect and reverence from Moses.  God seeks Moses’ companionship – God is pretty much asking, “Moses, will you stay a while with me?”

And like Moses, my only response is one of making myself present to the sacred ground upon which I now stand, and removing my shoes in silence.

Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

~  Rumi  ~


Life: a Series of Consecutive “Nows”

“If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death

 ~ Pablo Neruda – Keeping Quiet ~

The ebb and flow of my life has gradually led to me coming to a place of quiet.  There are many reasons for this, and I won’t bore you with them, but I think that the biggest is the fact that I come one year closer to the great ‘four-oh’, in just over a week.  Not that I attach any value, good or bad, to me eventually turning forty, but it’s because my birthday always has and most probably will always be the most loaded day in the calendar for me.  Once again, several reasons that I won’t bore you with.

At the risk of my friends slapping themselves on their foreheads because of me constantly saying this, but at times I can’t help but conclude that I should have been a Jewish boy.  The reason being that unbeknownst to me, I have spent most of my adult life ascribing to and valuing elements from Jewish spirituality, even though I was raised in a Catholic household and have therefore had very little knowledge or understanding about Judaism.

As an adult, my birthday has been a time where I’d retreat within myself and have a bit of ‘mountain time’.  Where I’d spend time alone and reflect upon my life journey: where I have been, where I am going and what I would like for my future, while reflecting on various people and experiences that have touched my life in beautiful and meaningful ways.

In the midst of my theological studies, I decided to include Judaica into my curriculum and as I got to better know and understand Judaism, I was surprised to discover that this is pretty much how Jewish folk celebrate their birthdays.  It is a day for reflection on their lives as Jews, they make new resolutions to perform good deeds, and they deepen their commitment to the Torah and the role that it plays in their lives.

This day was redefined about three years ago.  It changed from being my birthday to something that better expressed how I view and approach this day, ‘RE-Birth Day’.  A day of RE-newal, RE-assessment, RE-demption and RE-commitment.  It is a day of looking back in order to move forward, so that I can discover new ways to get to where my spirit is calling me to be.

Pablo Neruda’s poem, “Keeping Quiet” captures where I am at, as I quietly embark upon the final leg towards RE-birth Day:

As human beings, our basic concern is being alive.  In the midst of running frantically on a giant hamster wheel that doesn’t seem to slow down (let alone stop), we are single-mindedly fighting for our survival through trying to keep up.  The problem is that in the midst of trying to keep up, it is so easy to not only fall into a trap of being in a mad rush to complete life and achieve various goals, but especially, to allow these things to redefine ourselves and our identities – I am no longer defined by who I am but by what I do or by what I have accomplished.

Allowing myself time to pause could possibly lead to there being a massive silence that may intrude upon the despair of losing track of who I am and what I stand for.  It may lead to me being able to fill the spaces between my frantic activity with moments of self-appreciation and self-celebration.  But until then, I am at risk of suffering from a condition where I am only concerned or afraid of dying without having accomplished everything that I have set out to do, while not fully understanding myself or grasping the things that truly matter to me…things that make me feel alive and make me grateful to be alive!

These thoughts remind me that time is the only commodity in life that cannot be replenished.  Once it is gone, it is truly gone and there is nothing that I can do about it.  I am reminded that every squandered moment is time that will be forever lost to me.  And by virtue of this, best I invest some of my living time in me and my spirit.

And so, my friend, this blog is my reminder and my commitment to offer myself more moments of pause.  To spend more time reflecting upon my journey, past and present.  To nurture myself and celebrate who I am, flawed as I may be.  And to offer you my truth, with the hope that it will encourage you to pause and rediscover yourself, your truth and to remind yourself that you are a human be-ing and not a human do-ing.