Clean Floors, Confessed Hearts
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 and [similarly] Joshua 5:15
Funny thing, this housework that I do. Correction: funny thing this weekly housework that I do. I approach it so differently than I do so many other things. Each week I go through the necessary tasks that make my home distinguishable from, say, a barn. I vacuum the carpets, dust the furniture, scrub sinks, tubs, and toilets, and mop the floors (okay…in reality that’s an every other week thing, but it is still done more frequent than any barn can boast). And, with each movement of the vacuum, mop, or sponge, I am well aware of the fact that I will be revisiting these areas, with these same tools, in a matter of days. I could just say it’s not worth it, since it has to be redone again and again, but I know full well that it is worth the effort. When I come home, I want to be able to see the countertops and not just assume they are there because, obviously, something is holding up all those dishes! And, I want to sit down on the couch without having to remove a slip cover made of last week’s (or yesterday’s) laundry. Don’t even get me started on bathtubs with rings or showers with homemade (or homegrown?) non-skid floors! Oh, if only the things that keep us clean would likewise keep themselves clean! I guess what the shower does for me I in turn must do for the shower; fair enough, and so I do…again, and again.
So I have been wondering why it is that I take these repeatable duties so nonchalantly yet balk at the idea of having to consistently revisit other areas that need attention, and cleaning. It hit me when I was cleaning last week and was internally debating over whether or not I should mop the front hall (as I said…it’s an every other week thing…but there were foot prints…and it had only been one week. Oh, the dilemma!). From where I stood, I saw the tell-tale signs left by tennis shoes, boots, and sandals. I could clearly see that many feet had passed this way and knew the only remedy was to A.) get rid of the feet (not really a practical remedy), B.) get rid of the shoes, or C.) get rid of the bi-weekly approach to mopping. (You will be happy to know that I went with option C; my children still have their feet…and their shoes.) While tending to this predicament, I thought about footprints…and sandals; that led me to thoughts of Moses…and Joshua. Both of these men were asked to remove their sandals. Apparently God has a thing about tracked up floors too! I’ve often pondered this command. Why the shoes? Why not the outer cloak? Surely it was dust ridden. Why not the tunic or the belt…or the headdress? Surely they were laden with scents that would be better left to air out. Why the shoes? They seem so insignificant.
But shoes are not trivial…they are transparent. They show where we’ve been, what we’ve stepped in, and what we’ve waded through. They speak loudly with the imprints they leave behind. Yep, with or without a tongue, shoes have a lot to say! That’s why I think God asked Moses and Joshua to remove their shoes before drawing any closer into His presence. More than any other item of clothing, their sandals tracked in the world, all crusty and corrupt, right across the front hallway to God’s throne. Isn’t this just as true with us? I don’t think the location or shoe type matters; we can be in a cathedral rather than in a desert and we can be wearing the best Italian-made shoes rather than Nazarene run-abouts but, when in God’s presence, we must take off our shoes…for we are truly on holy ground.
With the simple act of removing their shoes, Moses and Joshua left the world behind. They stepped barefooted and bare-hearted into the presence of God Almighty. No matter where they had been, God had a word for them; no matter what they had stepped in, God had a plan for them. Just imagine…Moses and Joshua removed their shoes and stood before their Creator! Isn’t that incredible? But wait…don’t we do that, too? Isn’t that what prayer is…stepping out of our world and into our Father’s realm? While He doesn’t ask us to take off our shoes, He does ask us to take off our defenses…our excuses…our pretenses; He does ask that we unstrap our worldliness before entering into His presence. How do we do this? Through confession. Just like housework, confession is a task that needs to be revisited frequently. I think God wants us to acknowledge the fact that we live in a world that has a way of sticking to us; that even though we are not of the world we are still very much in the world…and this world has a way of dirtying up our walk. So, though we walk by faith, we do so through fields laden with sinfulness. Through the process of confession, we recognize that we never approach God without leaving a trail that requires mopping up. If we are to, hypothetically speaking, take off our sandals, here is what we would untie:
- S – selfishness
- A – anxiousness
- N – neglectfulness
- D – doubtfulness
- A – aggressiveness
- L – laxness
- S – slothfulness
By making daily confession of our sins, we in essence take off our shoes before our Heavenly Father. It’s something we won’t do just once…or twice; it’s not something to be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; it’s continual, it’s every time we step across the threshold of prayer and enter into His foyer. God doesn’t tell us that we cannot approach Him, due to our dirty shoes. He doesn’t contemplate a foot removal nor does He put out a “Wet Floor” sign that either restricts or reroutes us. No, He just lovingly tells us to take off our shoes, to think about where we have been, to admit that we have tracks that need to be cleaned up, and to know that…before the week (or day) is out, this process will need to be repeated.
And so I will mop when it’s needed and I will confess when it’s necessary…which will be far more frequently than the mopping! And I will give thanks to the One who never ceases to welcome me into His presence, who never tires of cleaning up the endless series of tracks that I leave behind; to the One who cares more about clean hearts than clean floors, for He is my Righteousness…and the Cleaner of my soul…and soles!