“Do not come any closer,” God said (to Moses at the burning bush). “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
Throughout my 64 years in church, Bible studies, and women’s spiritual groups, most of us sitting in those pews and around tables agreed we needed God as a friend, counselor, provider, protector, and father. We named more desirable roles we wanted Him to fill too. We were happy to call on Him when we needed Him and wanted Him around.
But there was one role I either didn’t hear much about or I ignored it. Alongside all those things I wanted Him to be, He was also supposed to be my Lord. In fact, He couldn’t do much with me until I gave up my free will (that He gave me) to Him.
It’s unfortunate that I thought I knew better how things should go. It’s unfortunate I held on tight because I was afraid of what He’d do if I let go. It’s unfortunate I didn’t want Him lording over my life.
The first time I used that phrase around my daughter, she asked if “lording over” was really a saying. She’d never heard it. When I looked it up in Merriam-Webster, there it was: lord it over means to act in a way that shows one thinks one is better or more important than. It’s an undesirable attitude if we’re referring to people who want to dominate. If we’re wise, though, we’ll know it’s a desirable thing when it’s about God wanting to discipline and direct us.
Sadly, I wasn’t wise.
I saw “lording” as negative no matter who was doing it. I turned into a rebel without a cause even though I was in church most of the time and trying hard to be good. But I wouldn’t take off my shoes, so I forfeited a lot of holy ground.
I stopped attending church for a year or so because I didn’t like their agenda. I missed out on following the pastor I respected when he didn’t like their agenda either. By the time I heard he started a church, he was nearing retirement.
I dropped off of a clogging team and missed the chance to dance at the White House and internationally because I worried more about embarrassing myself than taking off my shoes and stepping into a God-given opportunity.
I walked away from Erilynne Barnum’s Bible study (she lived locally, so I could have heard her teach in person) when the leader of my small group pressured me to share. She likely thought she was encouraging. I thought she was controlling. I gave into what I didn’t want to do without questioning what God was trying to do for me.
Thankfully I got another chance to go through Erilynne’s Call to Discipleship series at the church I attend now. God’s faithful like that.
And when we’re faithful too, our lives are better for it, but it means leaning into what Henry T. Blackaby said in his book Experiencing God, “We don’t choose what we will do for God; He invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us.”
We have to get over what we’ve decided is our purpose. I received three degrees in counseling before I got over my plan to be a therapist who listened to clients’ problems and fixed them. In turn, I figured I’d be fixed because they’d praise me for my help. I never saw God’s plan coming to write, bare all of my problems in a blog and book, and admit how I couldn’t even fix myself.
“When you offer yourself to God as His servant, He first expects to shape you into the instrument of His choosing. He will always work in you before He works through you.” Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing God
I also expected to begin an impressive career of fixing people decades before now. I was ready and willing a long time ago to step up and serve the way I wanted to. I didn’t need God working in me or on me, I needed to work harder on others. I stayed confused why He didn’t recognize, appreciate, and use the heart I had for helping people.
I was confused all right because I determined how I’d be holy. I’m not sure I saw my problem as clearly as the Sunday morning when my pastor exposed the plan Peter had for his own holiness. Right before Jesus died, He told His disciples at the Last Supper to take off their shoes so He could wash their feet. The act of taking off their shoes symbolized them giving up their desires, their will.
Instead of giving in, Peter said in John 13:8, “No, you shall never wash my feet.”
My pastor explained that Peter stood firm in his self-righteous shoes because it wasn’t right for a rabbi like Jesus to wash his followers’ feet, and Peter knew it.
Jesus answered Peter in the same verse, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
I can hear Jesus now telling us like He told Peter, “Give up your right to holiness your way so you can actually be holy. Take off your shoes and stand on holy ground.”
Are we willing to stop being holy our way and, instead, be holy Jesus’ way?
In This Together,