Take Off Your Shoes

Take off Your ShoesWhen Brother Lawrence sought sanctuary from the tumults of seventeenth-century France, he entered a Carmelite monastery in Paris, where his lack of education relegated him to kitchen duty. Charged with tending to the abbey’s most mundane chores, Brother Lawrence nevertheless earned a reputation among his fellow monks for exuding a contagious sense of joy and peace as he went about his work—so much so that after his death, they compiled the few maxims and letters and interviews he left behind into a work that would become a classic Christian text: The Practice of the Presence of God.

“The time of business,” explained Brother Lawrence, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

For Brother Lawrence, God’s presence permeated everything—from the pots and pans in the kitchen sink to the water and soap that washed them. Every act of faithfulness in these small tasks communicated his love for God and desire to live in perpetual worship. “It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God,” he said.

After reading Brother Lawrence, I tried to go about my housework with a little more mindfulness—listening to each rhythmic swishing of the broom, feeling the warm water rush down my arm and off my fingers as I scrubbed potatoes, savoring the scent of clean laundry fresh out of the dryer, delighting in the sight of all the colorful herbs and vegetables and cheeses on my countertop. And sure enough, I found myself connecting to that same presence that I encountered during contemplative prayer, the presence that reminded me that the roots of my spirit extended deep into the ground. I got less done when I worked with mindfulness, but, somehow, I felt more in control.

I get the sense that many in the contemporary biblical womanhood movement feel that the tasks associated with homemaking have been so marginalized in our culture that it’s up to them to restore the sacredness of keeping the home. This is a noble goal indeed, and one around which all people of faith can rally. But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.

If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.

As Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously put it:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Faith’s not about finding the right bush. It’s about taking off your shoes.
From A Year of Biblical Womanhood ©2012 by Rachel Held Evans; published by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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Rachel Held Evans is the author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”. The book documents a year-long experiment in which, Rachel says, “I attempted to follow all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.” You’ll find Rachel’s answers to questions about her year-long project here.


  1. 2 years ago
    ginger butler says

    I do not watch the View. but this clip showed the respectfulness that the women showed you, which is rarely present when they have others on with opionions different from theirs. It made me feel that it was a good thing. No one seemed to roll their eyes as though you were somehow really off base to them, thankfully.
    Brother Lawrence’s book and his practice of the presence of God is really the key to living in the Spirit not really part of this year of your Biblical experience. or was it?

  2. 2 years ago
    Joyce says

    Thank you Rachel. I really needed to read this today. (o:

  3. 2 years ago
    Kate Wallace says

    This post is beautiful and is a great reminder that God’s plan for women does indeed extend beyond the home. I love the message of Rachel’s book and I appreciate what she is doing.

  4. 2 years ago

    I thought the “interview” would be perhaps slightly antagonistic, but was pleasantly surprised. Rachel handled the limelight with poise and humor and, I think, won over The View members who were a little standoffish at first. Intriguing idea and the book sounds really interesting.

  5. Love this post…Do EVERYTHING as unto the Lord. I remember when the kids were young and the laundry truly felt endless. I cursed this job, muttering under my breath, resenting every sock. And the still small voice of the Lord broke through the loud chatter in my mind. I was reminded what a blessing, a privilege to be able to be home with my kids, to care for them even in this mundane task. And I asked God to be with me even in this task. This changed me. I won’t say it was pure pleasure from then on, but it far more pleasant than it had been.

  6. 2 years ago
    Michele Nolte says

    I can’t get the Rachel Held Evans Video from the view to play what am I doing wrong. Thank you!
    In Christ, Michele

    • If you are viewing on an Iphone or an Ipad you won’t be able to see the video since it’s on a flash based player. If your on your home computer you will be able to see it if you have a flash player on your computer. You can download the most up to date player here: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ free.

  7. 2 years ago
    Beth Hoffmann says

    Thanks for letting me experience The View.

  8. 2 years ago
    Diana Elrod Sarnecki says

    After listening to the View clip regarding Rachel Held Evans commentaries on her Year of Biblical Womanhood, I thought how interesting and brave she was in pursuing this goal. I was also impressed with some of the comments that from The View ladies because they knew and related to some of what she was saying. Way to go, Rachel.

    • Thanks! The segment went SO FAST I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to say, but it was a great opportunity. Sherri seemed the most interested in the project, and appeared to be the only one to have read the book. She said she liked how it made her rethink Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, which is encouraging.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Honestly? I’m glad the TV spots are over…for now.