In 1983, U2 played a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater where they recorded the live concert video Under a Blood Red Sky.
They never played another show there again.
In interviews since the shoot of the video, U2’s singer Bono has said they could never have a better concert than they did the night of June 5, 1983. The stands were only a third full due to the pouring rain and mist that had invaded Colorado the entire day leading up to the show. Yet U2 refuses to ever play there again for fear of ruining the holy night they once experienced.
I regularly run at Red Rocks Amphitheater, pacing back and forth across the stone seats, or jumping up all 60-something of the rows. As an outdoor exercise spot, it is absolutely unbeatable. I’ve also seen a good amount of shows here, and they never fail to disappoint. The natural acoustics of the gigantic red rocks cause a surreal intimacy between the massive audience and the performer.
I’ve had a lot of good days at Red Rocks, but I wouldn’t call any of them holy, per ce.
Then there are the janitors. The people who literally vacuum the miles of seating before each show, baking in Colorado’s summer sun. There are the beer vendors and the lighting technicians, just showing up for work.
But there was that day back in 1983 when this ordinary land became holy.
For about two years, I worked with an organization called YWAM, which stands for Youth With A Mission. Or, if you’ve ever known a YWAMer, it stands for Yes, We Arrange Marriages. Today, in thinking about this post, I realized it also stands for Yes, We’re After Miracles.
I love YWAM with everything in me, and have nothing but respect for every single YWAMer. But during my time there, I got this idea that my Christianity was nothing unless crazy miracles were happening and people were leaping out of wheelchairs left and right as my shadow grazed them on the sidewalk.
This led to a lot of discouragement in my life, as people rarely kept out of wheelchairs for me, even after half an hour of prayer. I got it in my head that my faith was too weak and I needed to try harder. I thought the supernatural was avoiding me for some reason.
YWAMers also have this unspoken rule that you’ve got to travel. A lot. Or else your ministry is too comfortable and not affecting the needy people of the world. So on my landlocked seasons when I was forced to stay stateside, I also felt somewhat bummed out, as I was unable to be where God was doing the real action.
I was thinking about the story of Moses earlier. Especially the part where 40 years pass and he has done nothing but herd sheep in the desert. We kind of graze over those years to get to the good stuff like freeing millions of slaves, as if there isn’t anything for us to learn from his 40 years of monotony.
But then one day, as he is with his flock in Midian, he sees a bush on fire but it’s not burning up. The coolest thing I realized about this story is that he wasn’t in a foreign land. He was in a place he had been passing by for the last 40 years, and NOTHING had ever happened.
In your life, it would be equivalent to the water cooler in the office or the elevator to the third floor. A place so mundane or ordinary that you don’t even realize when you pass by it. Now imagine you’ve been passing that same water cooler or riding that same elevator for 40 years. I can’t even comprehend this, as I’m not close to 40, nor have I even stayed in the same place more than a few months at a time!
The point is, the place Moses was was more boring than the color beige. It was very, very natural. Nothing super about it.
Until one day, it was holy. It was related to the divine.
It was so holy, God spoke to him and said to take his sandals off because the ground he was on was so holy.
The water cooler speaks to you and says this office space, this faded blue carpet, is now holy.
Take off your penny loafers.
The other day I was driving on Santa Fe, a road I have to take to get anywhere, so it’s become sort of drab to me. It is my water cooler, or desert of Midian. I was listening to a random playlist when a song came on. I can’t even remember which song it was, but I know it was a Christian song, and suddenly my car traveling across Santa Fe became a holy place.
Usually my music, Christian and secular alike, just crackles through my speakers as background noise while my mind races on. But that day, the sun set in a misty haze over the nearby purple peaks of the Rockies. I caught glimpses over the factories where the yellow and red treetops were beginning to pop among their greener brethren, and the entire scene just leveled me.
I don’t know how to describe the emotion aside from a holy moment. It was a brief glimpse of the Almighty.
God used the view from a very ordinary road, as I was driving in my very ordinary beater, and even a song I had heard many times before. My speakers were no longer coiled springs interacting with silicone cones, they were something more than that.
The supernatural reached right through my very natural environment and poked me.
I had this friend in college who used to keep a little brown notebook in his breast pocket. On the front of the small, beat-up booklet was written in ballpoint pen Glimpses. He opened it for me and flipped through full pages of one-line entries where he saw the supernatural peek through his natural days; where he saw God reveal Himself in the smallest ways.
One of the entries was just something like, “the rays of sunlight through the skyscrapers.”
They were all that small, or smaller.
I wonder how much of the world we take for granted, dismissing opportunities to see the holy in the ordinary.
When we read the Bible, I can’t help but wonder if God more often works through seemingly ‘natural’ means to work in transcendent ways. Look at communion: A loaf of bread is suddenly Christ incarnate, and some fermented juice is the blood of the Creator.
Baptism is a person falling under some water and coming out. But it’s also more than that.
It’s the dead come to life.
It must be.
There is a holy movement in the rhythms of communion and baptism, and I can’t help but think that this rhythm underscores more of our day-to-day lives than we think.
So keep your eyes open.
Seek out the holy, even in the natural, even in the boring and mundane. Even after 40 years in the same place, walking by the same water cooler.