Have you walked barefoot outdoors lately? It’s not something we do much anymore. For a number of reasons most of us typically have shoes or sandals on whenever we walk outside. We may, however, want to make an exception from time to time. This is something Philip Newell talks about in his books, A New Harmony and The Book of Creation. He suggests that doing so could prove beneficial for seeing Creation.
Newell writes: “We all know what a difference it can make to be barefooted. To feel the soft moisture of grass beneath our feet opens a new awareness in us. It can allow us to see life with a different perspective. The same, of course, can be said about walking on rough terrain. To expose our feet to stony ground also leads to new awarenesses! A heightened sense of the earth on which we walk is not just about pleasurable experiences. It is about knowing and reverencing the creation of which we are a part.”
It would seem that many of us are cheating ourselves out of a more intimate relationship with Creation by always wearing shoes outdoors. When our feet are covered we cannot feel the earth and we lose a degree of connection with it. As strange as it might sound, by always wearing shoes or sandals we limit our vision of Creation. Certainly I am not proposing that we all dispose of our footwear but I would suggest that it might not be a bad idea from time to time to take off our shoes and socks and really feel the earth beneath your feet. Since reading Philip’s books I have intentionally done that a number of times. It really does make a difference!
Going barefoot outside periodically may help us to remember our connection to the earth and our call to be good stewards of it. The great psychologist Carl Jung once wrote, “When you walk with naked feet, how can you ever forget the earth?” Many of our current environmental problems have come about because we have, indeed, forgotten the earth.
Stepping outdoors without shoes might likewise help connect us to our Creator. Exodus 3 records the story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. As Moses approached the burning bush God called his name and then said “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (v. 5) Several years ago while studying in Israel I visited the famous Islamic shrine called the Dome of the Rock. Before entering the shrine everyone had to take off their shoes. Such a holy place required such reverence.
If you find yourself out in the yard or on a hike and you come to sense the nearness of God perhaps that would be a good time to stop and take off your shoes for a moment. Or just do it from time to time to remind yourself that this world we live on truly is sacred. It was made by God and He declared it to be good. This earth should be considered holy, if for no other reason, because years ago God chose to inhabit it when He sent Christ into the world.
In all seriousness I encourage you to go walk barefoot in the park, to slip your naked feet into a stream, or to take your shoes and socks off and stand upon a bare rock. Doing so may reconnect you to your childhood but even better, doing so may reconnect you to our Creator and the good earth.
(Sorry, I have no pictures of bare feet. I took the top image at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia, the middle image at Acadia National Park, and the bottom image on a forst trail in the Pacific Northwest.)