by Leah Perrault
I have found God inescapable for most of my life. Even when I try to run away, there He is. God shows up in feeling and experience, touch and sound, churches and skies. Words generally show up after, inadequate but pressing to be spoken as a sort of verification of the miracle that has happened but cannot be held. The word for this constant gift of presence is grace.
Three years ago, I sat in a coffee shop with a friend and graphic designer to talk about a website and a brand for a new column, Barefoot and Preaching. I wanted something authentic that would communicate God’s faithfulness in and to me, as well as the unique way that God seems to be using me. My dual vocation to ministry and motherhood cannot be contained fully in my home or a church building.
It is a strange thing to talk about branding a person, because a person is not the sort of thing that can be captured by a logo or a name or a set of colours. As a person, I cannot be packaged in the words that make up a column. And yet this column I’ve been writing has also become a particular kind of grace for me.
Over the last three years, I have been writing about God showing up in my life, in depression and gratitude, in rest and longing, in grief and hope. Writing deadlines have turned into powerful invitations to pay attention to what God is teaching me. Publishing the pieces has become a connection to a community of beautiful people walking barefoot in their own lives. It has been my experience that sharing the stories of God showing up in my life becomes an invitation for others to do the same. It is such a miracle that walking barefoot through my life could also be a gift for others.
I began the column thinking about God’s words to Moses: “Remove your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” These words were for Moses and for us. Our lives are the places where God encounters us. Our floors, our yards, the neighbourhood, and the whole world are holy ground. Even though my feet cringe at the idea of walking on the grass without shoes, I am choosing to walk through life barefoot when it comes to spirituality.
In this season of life, I am home with a new baby and caring for three older siblings. God calls though requests for snacks, cries over the baby monitor, markers and scissors and glue. My growth feels like regression: reminding myself not to try to do too much in one day, resting when a few minutes present the chance, making time for slow walks noticing ants and sidewalk cracks. I fail at least as much as I succeed. The dividends are paid in sticky kisses and toddler to adolescent whispers of “Love you too…”.
After witnessing a bird in flight, Annie Dillard wrote in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that “beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” Since God is showing up for us constantly, I want to respond by expecting to find grace in the moments that make up my life.
What if it is not only possible, but actually probable that God is going to show up in the ketchup and crusts left on plastic plates, in the hand-knitted sweater that arrives as a baby gift in the mail, and in the daily marathon that is getting everyone to bed? How could it be any other way? If God cannot show up everywhere, then it seems unlikely that He’ll show up anywhere.
Grace is seeping into every possible place. God comes in with the air when the doors and windows open. God shows up in the faces and words and kindnesses of friends and strangers. God speaks in whatever sounds touch our souls. When my feet are bare, I am walking with sensitivity to what lies beneath them. When my soul is bare, I’m feeling for grace.
And when I find it, words swirl around inside me, making meaning out of the mystery, stirring to stumble out of my mouth and fingers, to be proclaimed to whoever needs them. Barefoot and Preaching has been carried to readers through the Prairie Messenger until its sad closure this spring, and this month is making its first appearance in the Catholic Register. Whether you find these words in print in these generous Canadian Catholic newspapers or online on my website, leahperrault.com, I’m grateful if my words find a resonance in you.