The other night I spent some time looking through some old pictures from our wedding ceremony. There were many pictures of Morgan and me laughing and basking in the joy of being newlyweds, a few of us stuffing our faces with cake, and a many of the family and friends we were privileged to spend the evening with. Of the hundreds of pictures I looked through, one stood out from them all. In this picture I was shaking my grandfather’s hand and laughing. I’m not quite sure what he had told me, but I’m sure it was one of his signature jokes asking how the girl situation was. He had impeccable timing. While grandpa has since gone home to be with Jesus, the memories of him remain. I can still remember that handshake. I can’t remember the words he said, but I can remember the feel of that handshake. I can still feel his grip, callused and scratchy after decades of working around the farm. A toughness to it that years of sickness and hospital stays could never take away. Just by shaking his hand you could instantly tell that he had spent his entire life working harder than most to ensure that his family was provided for. I’ll never forget that handshake or the calluses forever grown on his hands.
What the human body is capable of is truly incredible. It blows my mind how God has designed the body to repair and protect itself on its own. Take a callus for instance. When you repeatedly perform an action that adds friction to the exterior layer of skin, the skin will begin to harden as a means of self-protection. This hard patch of skin, a callus, will develop under stress and friction to make sure that the soft tissue beneath will not be effected by the repeated action.
I’m sure that many of us here are familiar with the story of Moses. If you are, skip this paragraph. If you’re not, you can read the whole thing here, or you can read my own translation. Moses was born an Israelite during their period of enslavement to the Egyptians, he was sent down the river in a basket to avoid being killed as a baby. He was then found and adopted by none other than the daughter of Pharaoh… aka the man who wanted baby Moses dead. He then grew up in Pharaoh’s home with all of the luxuries the world had to offer. He would spend his days being fanned and driven in his own personal chariot. Then he would come home to his own spa where he was given the best mani-pedis the Egyptian world had to offer. He would then feast upon the nectar of the gods, Chick-fil-A. After his gourmet dinners, he would then sink into his Tempurpedic mattress and would fall asleep to the glow of his essential oil diffuser (is this relevant enough?). All while the cries of his true people, the Israelite’s, echoed through his bed chamber. One day, overcome with a holy discontent and a desire to end the suffering of one slave in the midst of a beating, he killed an Egyptian slave drive. Moses then fled for his life and ended up in the middle of a desert working for his new father-in-law as a shepherd. He went from having every need of his tended to, to now tending every need of the sheep he was watching. Started from the top now we’re here… or something like that.
Can you imagine what this would have been like? To go from having everything, to having nothing? From having your own servants and slaves, to prodding sheep with a staff? From being driven in a chariot anywhere he pleased to now walking the harsh conditions of the Midian desert each and every day with only sheep to accompany him? Moses has gone from having perfectly manicured feet to feet that are undoubtedly now covered in blisters and calluses. Each and every day he would walk through the desert, through the hot sand and through the mountains with only simple leather sandals to protect his feet. There was no spa in the middle of Midian to repair his broken feet. There was only strife.
So Moses continued to walk with his sheep, day after day. Each day that he walked, the more his skin hardened to protect his flesh beneath. Then one day, a day that started just like any other, Moses saw a bush that was on fire but was not consumed by the fire. This is where we pick up below..
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:4-6
I’ve always wondered why God wanted Moses to remove his sandals. I think the obvious answer is that God wanted Moses to humble himself in His (God’s) presence, but maybe there is something deeper here.
What if God wanted Moses to expose the calluses on the soles (souls) of his feet in His presence?
You see, the calluses that Moses had built over time were not just on his feet, but in his heart and on his soul. Just think of the emotional toll life has taken on Moses up until now. He went from being a prince to a shepherd. He became a murderer and an outcast. He has literally lost everything that he once had. To make matters worse, he doesn’t even know where he belongs. Born and Israelite, but raised an Egyptian, he has no people to call his own and now he is a stranger in Midian. Yes, he has a wife and a family, but these people are not his own. Heck, he doesn’t even have his own sheep. After 40 years of living in Midian (which means strife btw), he is still shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep. He has nothing to show for the past 40 years of hard work! Later in Exodus 4, we also learn that Moses has a speech impediment. Just one of these events is enough to callus a man, let alone experiencing each of these in a single lifetime!
Let’s be honest. You and I have gone through our own Midian, our own strife. Maybe you were the kid who felt like you didn’t belong and that you had no group to call your own. Maybe you have struggled your entire life with your self-worth and have built up an image of success so others can’t see the insecurities you fight back each and every day. It could have been a divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Perhaps you did something so terrible that you believe there is no possible way you can move past it. I don’t know what your story is, but I know that life has a way of continuing to beat us while we are down, and it is so hard to heal. So we put up walls. We build calluses to protect what little of ourselves that hasn’t been hurt is left.
Here in Exodus 3, God knew what Moses had been through. He knew the pain and questions Moses was carrying, but God knew that He wanted to work through Moses. God knew that to work through Moses, Moses needed to let go of the walls he had built up. Moses wasn’t going to be able to live in his purpose until his calluses were exposed. God wanted Moses to expose his calluses to His holy, sanctifying presence so that he could begin to heal. You see, it is only through experiencing God’s presence that we can begin to heal.
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
I love what it says here in 2 Corinthians. I think so many of us feel that we have to be strong, that we have to push through what we’ve gone through. That we have to show our toughness and show off our calluses. That it is our calluses are what make us strong. NO! It is time that we as Christians begin to expose our calluses for what they are.. Dying skin that keeps our flesh from connecting to the holy group we’ve been called to stand upon. We need to be reminded of what Paul said and boast in our weaknesses. It is through our weaknesses that we allow God to work in and through our lives. If we are “strong” on our own then what will God work through?
I can’t help but think back to that handshake with my grandpa. The stress and friction he had endured in his life was more than enough to callus the softest of hearts. But no matter what came his way, he continued to remove the calluses as they began to form and would take all of his burdens to the cross. You see the truth is, once a callus is removed, the skin underneath is tougher than the skin that was previously injured. It isn’t dead like the callus, it is healthy, stronger skin. We need to expose our souls and the calluses that have grown over time to God. Let Him deal with your hurt, your habits, and your hang-ups, and watch the healing begin so you can move forward in your purpose just like Moses. Take your shoes off. You’re standing on Holy ground.