Monday, February 21, 2011

Reflections from the book of John #13: The Foot Washing

John 13:2-5, 12-15
The evening meal was in progress . . . [and Jesus] gotup from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them.  "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."
This passage from Scripture inspires Christians everywhere to wash other people's feet, a practice I generally avoid.  In fact, if I even think there will be a foot washing, I don't go to the event.  I'm not sure Jesus meant that we should literally wash one another's feet, and I'm not big on symbolism.

A couple of years ago, some friends and I escaped to a lake for our own private women's retreat.  We had a great time talking, playing games, reading, and enjoying the beauty of the lake.  And then, on the last morning, as we sat outside, looking at the glistening water,  one of the women excused herself, and when she came back with a basin and a towel, she announced she was going to wash our feet.

Another friend politely declined and went inside.  Since there were only four of us, I didn't want to make my friend with the towel feel uncomfortable, and so I stuck around.

This was my first "food washing."  As my friend washed my feet, I thought about how odd it was to have her touching my feet.  No pedicure.  Sloppy toenails.  Do my feet smell bad?  I didn't know what to say.

And then I thought about her heart to serve me.  To serve all of us. I thought about her willingness to humble herself before me.  Before all of us.  And I thought about her willingness to kneel awkwardly before me.  Before all of us.  And touch our feet.

And finally I thought about how Peter and the other disciples must have felt as Jesus knelt before each of them, on the floor, washing their feet, drying their feet.  I mean, they know he's God.  They know he is the master.  They call him Lord.  And yet, here he is, humbling himself before them, touching their feet.

And then I understood what Jesus is asking us to do.  Or at least I got a little better picture of what that might look like in our world.  And it has nothing to do with feet.

It has everything to do with humility.  With being willing to feel awkward as we offer service.  With doing the unexpected for others.  With caring for others, making ourselves nothing.  Choosing to serve and do even the most menial tasks.  Even if we think we're beyond those tasks.

And it also has to do with allowing others to come alongside us and serve when they offer.

Incidentally, I don't fault my friend who declined the foot washing.  Remember, I wanted to do the same thing, and if somebody offered to literally wash my feet again, I would probably want to find a way out of the experience.

On the other hand, I'm glad I felt too awkward to decline on that summer morning.  I would have missed this glimpse into the heart of Jesus.

And what else would I have written about today? 

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