Putting On Shoes

God became human.  Well, sure, God can do that if God chooses, but why?  Why would the Divine CHOOSE to become human, CHOOSE to live a life that includes suffering and fear, CHOOSE to live in this imperfect world?  It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I suppose it’s part of that mystery thing.  And the truth is, we struggle with it.  We try to justify it.  You’ve heard it all before:  “God was the perfect human,” “God was only posing as a human,” or “It was part of God’s plan.”  Really?  God PLANNED to be born into poverty, PLANNED to be born into an oppressive society, PLANNED to struggle, PLANNED to be disliked, and PLANNED to die?  I don’t really know if that was all part of God’s plan or not.  Is it so hard for us to accept that God just CHOSE to be one of us?  After all, part of being human is being subjected to a certain randomness of order, to a life that, as hard as it is for us to imagine, is beyond our control, and to not only the free will of ourself, but also the free will, the choice to do right or do wrong, that others around us have. Being human means that not all of life is a predictable pattern, not all of life is planned.  But, nevertheless, God became human.  After eons and eons of trying to get our attention, God put on shoes and walked with us.

“Incarnate” literally means “taking on flesh.”  It means becoming tangible, real, touchable, accessible.  It means becoming human.  It means putting on shoes. In the book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr calls it God’s “most dangerous disguise.”  After all, taking on flesh, becoming tangible, becoming real, touchable, accessible also makes one vulnerable and that is incredibly dangerous.  God put on shoes to show us how to be vulnerable, to show us how to give up a piece of ourself and open ourself to the Divine.

The Shoe Heap, Auschwitz, Poland

More than a decade ago, I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, Poland.  I expected to be appalled; I expected to be moved; I expected to be saddened at what I would fine.  I did not expect to become so personally or spiritually involved.  As you walk through the concentration camp, you encounter those things that belonged to the prisoners and victims that were unearthed when the camp was captured–suitcases, eye glasses, books, clothes, artifical limbs, and shoes–lots and lots and lots and lots of shoes–mountains of humanity, all piled up in randomness and namelessness and despair.  This is humanity at its worst.  This is humanity making unthinkable decisions about one another based on the need to be in control, based on the need to be proved right or worthy or acceptable at the expense of others’ lives, based on the assumption that one human is better or more deserving than another.

And yet, God CHOSE to be human.  God CHOSE to put on shoes, temporarily separating the Godself from the Holy Ground that is always a part of us, and entering our vulnerability.  God willingly CHOSE to become vulnerable and subject to humanity at its worst.  But God did this because beneath us all is Holy Ground.  God came to this earth and put on shoes and walked this earth that we might learn to take our shoes off and feel the Holy Ground beneath our feet.  God CHOSE to be human not so we would learn to be Divine (after all, that is God’s department) but so that we would learn what it means to take off our shoes and feel the earth, feel the sand, feel the rock, feel the Divine Creation that is always with us and know that part of being human is knowing the Divine.  Part of being human is being able to feel the earth move under your feet, to be vulnerable, to be tangible, to be real, to take on flesh, to be incarnate.  Part of being human is making God come alive.
In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of being human, being vulnerable, and knowing the God who is Divine. Take off your shoes and feel the earth move under your feet.  God is coming!  The earth is beginning to move!

Grace and Peace,



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