Barefoot. Tahaa, French Polynesia, 2004.

Bare Feet and Holy Homes
When I lived on Tahaa, I quickly learned to count the pile of sandals on a doorstep to determine how many people shared the home.

My sister there wore dainty little red flip-flops. I knew I was settling in the day I caught myself turning back from her mother’s home without even approaching–I wanted to see Dorita, and her red sandals were not on the porch.

Tahitians don’t remove their shoes before entering a shop, or a classroom, or a restaurant. No.

Bare feet are for home. 

And here’s a secret: Remove your shoes, expose yourself, and you make room for the sacred.

We’re vulnerable, see, when we strip off our shoes. 

(If you don’t think so, consider that Nazi guards confiscated prisoners’ shoes.)

It’s been twenty years since I left the island, but I still remove my shoes at home. It’s my safe place, you know. I don’t worry about needing to hustle out of there in a hurry.

Home is sanctuary. 

Home is where we rear children and roast turkeys and write letters and sob into pillows in the bleakness of night.

Home is where we strip naked. Home is where we sleep–and yielding to sleep wrings trust from us.

We expose more than our toes when we slip off our shoes. We bare our feet in the same places we bare our hearts.

And these bared hearts?

Listen to their rhythm: “Home-is-holy-home-is-holy-home-is-holy.” 

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5 (NIV 1984)