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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Friday, November 13

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
—Hebrews 12:14

Certain kinds of houses make me edgy. You probably know the type—white carpets, white sofa, no stray papers on the dining table, everything in its place. Definitely not the “lived-in” look.

We never had such a room in our house when I was growing up, but I visited some homes that did. I never quite knew what to do in those places. Sit quietly with my hands folded in my lap? Tiptoe, so as not to leave any footprints on the freshly vacuumed rug? That these were “living rooms” was an irony that didn’t escape me.

Some of us think of holiness in much the same way. Knowing that God is holy, we approach the spiritual life as if we were being invited to put our muddy sneakers on a pristine damask sofa. How could we ever do that? In short, we let our understanding of God’s holiness serve as a wedge between ourselves and the divine. Surely God wouldn’t be interested in the likes of us.

But this is not the case at all.

When we say that God is holy, we’re talking about more than simply goodness. We’re speaking of that which is Wholly Other, a mystery, that against which we recognize ourselves as mortal creatures. Far from being analogous to that sterile living room—that place we approach with anxiety and even resentment—God is irresistible. This Holy One draws us in, muddy feet and all.

“The holiness without which no one will see the Lord” is not moral purity or virtue. It is, rather, the embracing of a paradox: God, who is beyond anything we can imagine or experience, is also the One in whom we find our home. 

As the author of The Cloud of Unknowing put it, “[H]e may well be loved, but not thought. By love he can be caught and held, but by thinking never.”

O God, may we approach your holiness with open hearts, ready to love you even when we cannot imagine you, ready to live in you even when we cannot speak your name.

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.