The Forgotten Act of Taking Off Our Shoes


One of my favourite quotes of all times must be this one from Elizabeth Barret Browning:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

So often I feel the Spirit gently reminding me that I am sitting around plucking blackberries instead of taking off my shoes and noticing what God is doing around me. Anne Edwards, a fictional character in Maria Doria Russell’s Sparrow, says that when faced with the Divine, we often take refuge in the banal…”as though answering a cosmic multiple choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs or (c) recognise God?” In our awareness of what is happening around us, how often do we interpret events as emergencies or opportunities for entertainment or self-satisfaction, rather than the presence of God?

Last week in South Africa, we saw the rise of the #feesmustfall movement. And I wonder how many of responded to it as an emergency…”Oh my goodness, see what is happening with this country!”. How many of us responded to it as an opportunity for entertainment by sharing posts making fun of the whole situation, or responded to it by how it would benefit us…”I wonder if I could also claim back my university fees from way back in the 90’s…”? And how many of us saw Jesus in the midst of those crying out for justice and equality? How many of us noticed the Divine hovering above, amidst and in people to oppose that which is not right in our world…and energising imaginative dreams of what could be?

Let us as South Africans be a people who can take off their shoes and notice God in the blackberry bush.


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