In the Japanese religion Shintoism, followers often mark holy places a gateway called a Torii. Toriis mark the transition from the profane to the sacred. Sometimes the “holy” is something obvious and recognizable, such as a Shinto Temple. Other times it may be a little more abstract, such as a tree. While it may seem abstract to the western mind, to the Shinto, anything containing beauty can be evidence of the god’s presence there. Even if it is something that other people just pass by every single day, without recognizing the beauty or mystery of it.
In the Bible, there’s a story of a man named Moses, who encountered God in a bush. If he were a Shinto, he probably would have built a Torii after the experience. You can find the story in Exodus chapter 3. As the story goes, Moses was in the fields with his sheep when he saw a fire. A random fire wasn’t what drew Moses’ attention to this particular fire though. The Bible says that a bush was burning, but not being consumed by the flames. I imagine that while the sheep were grazing, Moses must have been sitting there watching this fire for a while before he realized that the bush wasn’t being harmed. At some point Moses must have taken a double take at the bush and realized that nothing has changed, no branches have fallen off, no ashes were piling up on the ground. So he decides to take a closer look.
“So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’ 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.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.'”
Shepherds never take their sheep to unfamiliar grazing pastures, it would be too dangerous for their flock. Shepherds have consistent, regular places they take their sheep to for safety, availability of food & water for the sheep, and often not too far from home so the sheep don’t become weary in their travel. This tells me that Moses was very familiar with the area the bush was in. In fact he had probably passed that bush every day for the last forty years & never noticed that there was anything special going on there. Yet this time God calls out to Moses telling him that this was “Holy Ground.” I don’t believe there was anything innately Holy about that bush, or the land where the bush was, I think the only reason it was Holy is because God decided to make a visit. But God never pointed out that the place was Holy, until Moses decided to take a closer look.
Too often I go through life rushed, and even sometimes obsessed with getting things done, that I miss the Holy Ground where God is trying to meet me. Maybe I’m too busy to notice it, or maybe I see it and try to rationalize what I’m seeing. Or maybe I see it, but I don’t take the time to get a closer look. I know the times in my life when I actually “stop to smell the roses,” I am always rewarded with some sort of peace or satisfaction in life. So the next time you see something out of the ordinary (be it a pretty tree, or anything that catches your attention as unique, or interesting in any way) take the time to get a closer look. Your curiosity may be just rewarded by stepping through a gateway from the normal, everyday bla… into something rare, something beautiful, something Holy.