There is a special quote that has a special place in my heart for lots of reasons, and every time it comes to mind it seems that I gain some new insight from it:

Earth is crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
{Elizabeth Barrett Browning}

I was thinking about this quote just last night in reference to a friend of mine who is very dear to me. She would be utterly and completely embarrassed if I told you her name, so I will instead just refer to her as a dear friend, and leave it at that.

My dear friend has these really special qualities. She is incredibly humble, incredibly gentle. She is thoughtful and very careful with her words. She is very tender, too, and because of that, she bruises easily, so to speak.

I realised in a way, when I was speaking with her recently, that she is a lot like the bush spoken of in the Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote above. People miss out on the deepness, the specialness, and the unique godliness that is in her, because she carries herself so humbly you won’t see it unless you take the time to look for it. She hungers and thirsts for righteousness like few people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. But if you don’t get to know her, you’re just going to miss it. If you don’t look, you just won’t see the beauty that is in this special woman after God’s own heart.

In Exodus 3, Moses turned aside to see the burning bush, perhaps to understand why it was burning but didn’t burn up. He responded to the holiness of God, as God directed him, by taking off his shoes. His respect for God’s holiness made way for him to receive the words and revelation God had for him.

The thing is, I think a lot of people are like my dear friend. There is something special worth celebrating. Now don’t be afraid that I might be going New Age on you — the thing that there is that is inherently good in each of us is the thing that has to do with us being created in the image of a good and loving God. And I believe there is something of our loving and good God built into who we are, because created things bear the mark of their creators. Van Goghs are different from Monets and Picassos. Apples are different from Toshibas and Dells. There is something of the creator in the created thing, but sometimes we have to look for it.

If we aren’t looking for the Imago Dei (as this theological concept is often referred to in Latin) in the people around us, if we aren’t looking for the things that are worth celebrating, then we are likely to just sit around and pluck blackberries. We’ll miss opportunities to praise the things that are praiseworthy. We aren’t gonna take off our shoes and witness the holiness — let me reiterate it’s not our own holiness, but the holiness of the God in whose image we are created. If only we could remember that every person who comes across our path is someone for whom Christ gave His life on the cross.

It is a worthwhile old saying, that every person has a story. There are lots of stories I’m hoping to tell you in the days ahead, because I think they will be good for you and me both to hear and remember and take off our shoes and receive. But I think we’ll also be changed for the better if we receive each other, and look for and celebrate the Imago Dei — that beautiful part of us that is somewhere in there, because of Whose we are.

Have you seen any reasons to take off your shoes lately?