Then said the Lord to him, put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground ~ Acts 7:33, KJV

We were ready to start our surgery rotation; it would be our first experience in the sacred environs of the sterile field. After months of internal medicine, the shift to surgery was anticipated as one of the most exciting rotations, full of drama and emergency, real “life and death” cases. Bright and early in the operating room (OR) circulating area, seven eager, third-year medical students clustered around a pair of porcelain scrub sinks with the head QR nurse.

Since the time of Louis Pasteur, students have been instructed in the methods of sterile procedure. Before entry to the sacred OR – we had to prove we were clean, perfect without blemish or bacteria. We were scrubbing nails, elbows, and hands with the strong antiseptic cleanser and washing in the scrub sink, avoiding contact with any source of possible contamination. We then were shown how to gown and glove, alone or assisted. Not until the almighty scrub tech pronounced us ready were we allowed to come near to the operating table.

Professional eyes of the surgeon carefully scrutinized us over the rim of his mask. We knew we were clean because we had washed in the sink and now wore the robe of surgical righteousness. With confidence, we could approach the operating field.

Is this how we should prepare for heaven? Could our good works and careful sterile procedure ever make us acceptable in the eyes of an angry, arbitrary God? If so, then why the Cross?

While studying the experience of Moses at the burning bush, I was struck by a new perspective. He was asked to remove his shoes, to make himself more presentable on the Holy Ground. Is this the best perspective? Was God afraid that Moses’ unclean shoes would soil His Holiness? What about Moses’ dirty feet? Perhaps he needed a celestial scrub tech to make sure he washed his feet with proper sterile procedure, so as not to contaminate the sacred field.

Or is it something else? What is between you and your God? God asked Moses to come to Him with less. God wanted to be closer to Moses. He was not in any way concerned that Moses’ sinfulness would harm Him. To the contrary, perhaps God wanted to be so close to Moses that His righteousness itself would infuse Moses. Being near our Friend changes us. God’s Holiness was transforming to Moses, and God did not want anything in-between.

Examine your life. Is God, your Friend, asking you to remove something that separates you from Him? He longs to make you holy. Come stand on the Holy Ground with your shoes off.

Jon Edwin Lloyd Ermshar, LLUSM class of 1988, is a family practitioner in Grants Pass, Oregon.