Saturday, July 2, 2011

Getting My Feet Washed

About eight years ago, I attended a ladies' retreat hosted by our church. The theme of the weekend was feet. I walked in, saw all the shoes & foot-related decorations & wondered what on earth I had signed myself up for. I mean, when I think of a deep Scripture & Holy Spirit filled weekend, feet aren't exactly the first thing that come to mind.

But I stuck around and loved the weekend. I can't even remember what all the lessons were about or how they tied the 'foot' theme in with all of the music & games, but I know that I was amazed by how it all worked out. The theme verse for the weekend was from Isaiah 52:7. To this day, every time I hear that verse, I am reminded of THIS song that I learned that weekend. After a weekend of spiritual & emotional highs, tears & laughter like only a ladies retreat can bring, worship & time in the Word, our closing service began.

The message given was taken from John 13.

(In the days that this was written, people did not have shoes. The only protection they had for their feet were straps of cloth or leather, wound around their feet & bound by rope or other ties (perhaps similar to those shown above). The grounds were not paved and there were no cars. So when you walked around all day to work or go about your business, you feet got very dirty. Dust flew around and caked on your skin. You, no doubt, had residue of all the umm....animal droppings in the streets as well. It was the job of a servant to get down on his knees & wash your feet when you entered someone's home. They would bring out a basin of water & a towel and wash your feet, digging all the nastiness out from between your toes, wiping the soles of your feet until they were fresh and clean. Obviously this was a demeaning, disgusting job.)
The story that is told in the Scriptures that were presented that day details how Jesus, having realized that He was nearing the day of His crucifixion, came to His disciples and knelt at their feet to wash them. They argued & told Him that He shouldn't be doing this....that THEY ought to kneel and wash HIS feet instead. Jesus told them (more or less) to be quiet & allow Him to serve them. After washing all of their feet, He asked if they understood what He had done. He explained that He, as their master/teacher/leader, felt that it was important to set an example for the way they should live after He was humble themselves and serve others, to never see themselves as 'above' their servants or 'better than' bless others & allow them to bless you in return. The story in John 13 can be found HERE.

As I sat & listened to the lesson being given by the speaker at the retreat that day, I panicked. I realized that this beautiful weekend of focusing on feet could only end in one way...a foot washing service. I was not sure how I felt about that. After all, aside from the fact that I had calloused & yucky feet with unpainted toenails that I was a little embarassed to show off, how would I feel about these women sitting at my feet & washing them? {I realize pedicures are commonplace & in some ways they are a foot washing...but you are PAYING the person to do that. In a foot washing ceremony, someone is humbling themself to sit at your feet & serve you as an intentional blessing. Very different things.} And then it happened. The committee who had served us all weekend lifted a sheet off of several foot tubs, poured warm water into each one & got down on their knees and invited everyone to come to them.

I watched the first few ladies who boldly walked up & removed their socks & shoes and was a little overwhelmed with emotion. I was torn between my pride (Do I really want them to see & touch my feet? Will it be weird? Will they be grossed out by my feet?) ....and humility (should I allow them the blessing of serving me like Jesus served His disciples?). Isn't that how most of life is -- an internal battle where pride so often wins? As more women went forward, I realized that I wanted to give it a shot, so I stood & approached the area. Quiet worship music was playing in the background.

As I sat down & pulled off my sweaty tennis shoes & socks, I was overcome by the emotion of watching what happened. Two ladies, friends of mine who know me well, began to wash each of my feet. They poured warm water over my feet, spread a soft lathering sudsy mixture over my toes & began to scrub them. As they did, I heard each of them begin to pray for me. They washed & rinsed, washed & rinsed for probably 6-8 minutes, asking God to bless me, my marriage, my children, my home....lifting up specific needs they knew of and offering praise to God for my life. They prayed for my family members by name. They asked God to bring me closer to Him, to give me a hunger for Him and His word. They steadily prayed blessings over me for a long time as I sat in amazement at this incredible scene. Then they poured oil over my feet, a symbol of blessing & the Holy Spirit's presence in the Bible. They dried my feet before I stood to leave the foot washing area.

I sobbed throughout much of the foot washing, humbled & so very honored to be served by these women. It is hard to describe the range of emotions you feel in this situation. No matter my feelings about those ladies before that time, they had just risen to Sainthood in my mind. I sat and watched them perform this beautiful service to several other women before it struck me that none of them had been served. Apparently the lady standing next to me had the same thought about that moment because we ended up stepping forward & asking the ladies who had served us to allow us to bless them in return at about the same time.

I cried as I prayed over these women whose feet I washed. As my tears fell into the water and over their feet, I was reminded of the sinful woman in Luke 7 who came to the Pharisee's house and washed Jesus's feet with her tears, then poured the expensive perfume on His feet in an act of worship. These moments spent having my feet washed & then washing those of the other ladies was an act of worship. Beautiful, intimate, sweet worship.

The whole thing was an amazing experience. Worshipful, humbling, honoring to God, powerful. Serving and being served, allowing myself to let down my guard and accept their service, quieting my fears and concerns to allow another person to love me in such a special way, shoving my pride out of the way to allow it all to happen. Wow.

Over the years, I've seen God find ways to "wash my feet" again & again...even if no toe-touching or shoe removal was involved. When He has used the hands & feet of others to serve me in a way that requires me to humble myself & allow them to bless me, I find it hard to let go of pride & accept help and service. The self esteem of my 15 year old self is revived and I question everything. But in the end, it's always powerful.

Today was one of those days.

This morning I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a good, used, working vacuum cleaner. Ours died this week and my carpet was beginning to look really nasty! I asked if any of my local friends had one I could buy from them cheap. To be quite honest, I was hoping for a $10-20 vacuum cleaner because we just don't have any extra money. We make just enough to cover all our regular bills, but with Larry's job requiring so much travel (ouch...gas prices!) & time away from home (which translates to a meal out at least every few days), let's just say that we're happy our bank offers overdraft privilege. We exercise that privilege every single month. It's not a matter of us spending like crazy....we're actually pretty frugal! We just don't make much money, so every penny (and then some) is spoken for. When extra expenses come up, it is difficult. But God always takes care of us. We have never missed a meal, never gone without a roof over our head, never had a vehicle repossessed, never had our utilities cut off, never had to hock something important like a wedding ring to pay our bills, never had to made a difficult choice like feeding the family vs buying medicine. We have jobs. We have a wonderfully large group of close friends. We have a church home. And we're all healthy. We are extremely blessed!

About 30 minutes after I posted to facebook about the vacuum cleaner today, a friend called. We go to church together, but I don't know her very well. I have worked with her children at church and so we've met in that way, but outside of that, we don't really know each other. When I saw her name on my caller ID, I couldn't imagine why she was calling. I mean, I welcomed her phone call, but we're not exactly buddies who routinely call each other to chat & plan girl time. Although we're friends on facebook, we rarely ever talk on there or comment on each other's pictures, so it didn't even occur to me that she had seen my post about the vacuum cleaner. Imagine my surprise when she asked if she could buy me a vacuum cleaner!

My first instinct was to say " don't have to do that!" or "You don't need to do that, we'll buy one soon." (although that would be a lie....we have no extra money to buy one at the moment) There was still that issue of pride. Should I feel like this was charity? Did she feel sorry for me & know how 'poor' we are? Did she want to do this as her 'good deed of the day'? Would I hear people whispering & pointing at church on Sunday because they knew I was 'the one' who this lady helped?

Pride, pride, pride, pride.

Fortunately for me, she filled my nervous silence & giggles with nothing but sweetness. As she told me all the reasons she wanted to bless me in this way, I am sure she could see me blushing through the phone lines. I couldn't help but picture the tops of all those ladies' heads 8 years ago at the women's retreat, kneeling at my feet, serving me BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO. I realized that it would be as much of a blessing to HER as it would be to ME to allow her to do this. So after a few minutes, I said yes. She cheered & giggled and told me how much it excited her to get to do go appliance shopping.

She met me on the parking lot of Walmart a couple hours later to give me her gift. We laughed, we hugged. I thanked her. My kids thanked her. It's then that it struck me how very happy I was that they were there. Before we left the house, I sat them down & explained the beauty of what our friend was doing for us, how a friend wanted to bless us and how God orchestrated it all. I didn't want them to see HER, but Jesus's hands & feet. They all smiled and asked me if I was crying. Maybe I was.

As my friend drove away this morning, I whispered a prayer for her. I thanked God for allowing her to wrap a symbolic towel around her waist & wash my feet this morning. I praised Him for helping me let go of my pride so that my kids could see Him at work, so that my friend could be blessed as she showed His love, for the new vacuum that would get my carpet clean!

How beautiful in the parking lot of Walmart are the feet of those who bring new vacuum cleaners, proclaiming love and peace, sharing salvation and shouting 'Our God Reigns'! (From my own little translation of the Bible. I don't think God will mind my changing up the words a little.)

1 comment:

Karen said...

This is so beautiful and you allowed HER to be blessed by blessing you! Thank you for sharing this !