Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rabbi's Example: How Beautiful

"So he got up 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." John 13:4-5

I have some ugly feet. Seriously. I hide these toes of mine from the world because I don't want folks to see how ugly my feet are. I never wear open toed shoes. I cannot wear sandals or flip flops in the summer for fear that people would run screaming after seeing my sad piggies. I bathe them -- sometimes two or three times in a day! I use deodorant on them. Put medication on them. Wear socks nearly year-round. And still, I have these horribly ugly feet!

The journey for the Christ follower in the days of Jesus required travel by foot dirty, mud-caked roads on ordinary days. Most of the disciples were likely barefoot as they traveled, because only the wealthy owned sandals in those days. Even so, it was not uncommon to have feet coated in mud or animal droppings by day's end. So it was customary to have a servant to wash the feet of a guest in a home prior to a meal. On the night that Jesus washed the disciples feet, there was no servant offered. So, Jesus took a towel, wrapped it around His waist and began to wash the dirty encrusted feet of the twelve.

You remember the story. Peter even argued with Jesus (so what else is new?) about whether He would wash his (Peter's) feet. Jesus told him that if He couldn't wash his feet that he could have no part with Him. Then Peter told Jesus that He should wash his head and the rest of his body, too! (Isn't it funny that when God does some little something for us, we will respond much like Peter? Don't we either feel as if we are either a) too insignificant for Jesus to do something for us or to notice us, or b) we want Him to treat us as if we are all that and a bag of chips?)

Jesus promptly told Peter that he'd already had a bath. He didn't need to have his head washed again, and that his feet were what was dirty. So, Jesus washed Peter's feet. Stinky, nasty, dirty crusty feet....

And then, one by one, He washed the feet of all those in the room.... every last one of the feet of the twelve... 120 toes.... 24 heels.... all coated in who-knows-what. Can you imagine the Son of God digging mud out of the nail beds of His best loved friends? Can you imagine how humbled the disciples might have felt to know that their Teacher, their beloved Rabbi (the Son of God!) was seeing their bare feet (up close and personal), let alone taking the form of a servant, wearing a towel, and washing feet... their feet?

And let's face facts here. Those boys didn't smell like a bed of roses, either, just before dinner. No doubt, Jesus was coated in all of that stuff that they had stepped in by the time it was all said and done.

I often wonder when I've read this story as to how I would have felt had Jesus tried to wash my feet? How would I feel about revealing every ugly toe to the Master? How would I respond as He took a washcloth and attempted to wash away the scars from the burns I received on my feet as a small child (I stepped on both a floor radiator and hot coals as a two year old)? What would I do when He saw the fungus on my toes or the dry cracked skin on my heels? And oh my goodness, did I remember to shave that day???? Please tell me that I did!

How would He respond to my ugly feet??? I wonder whether this revealing would change things for us in some way... He's seeing the side of me that I keep hidden to the rest of the world. And while I know that He is omniscient, there is a part of me that thinks that maybe I can hide this from Him as well. And then when there is the thought of it being revealed to Him, it makes me cower in shame. I want to put my best foot forward, so to speak... especially for Him and with Him.... I don't want to coat Him with my stench!

And what would He think afterward about me? What would be His impression of me after He had cleaned my stinky nasty feet? Better yet, what would be my thought toward Him after He had washed my feet? Would the shame still be there? Would I make excuses as to why my feet look like they do? Would I try to place blame?

And that's not all! Jesus said we're to wash one another's feet! So, then I wonder what would happen if some of you got a towel, a washcloth and some Safeguard, and had to wash my ugly feet! I know some of you! You would definitely run away!!! Or you'd get sick with the smell. And what would you think of me then? Would you also try to cover the smell with something from Bath and Body Works? Would you then try to recommend a podiatrist for me? Would you try to ignore the smell and hope it went away and that you didn't get any on you? So much for impressions, huh?

I am being a little facetious here. But aren't we also that way when it comes to the rest of our lives? Don't we try to work so hard toward impressing others with our lives that we, too, really become what my pastor friend calls the "Plastic People"?

Plastic people. You've seen them. They lurk in every congregation. They are the ones with the painted smile, perfect hair, perfect clothes, and expensive perfume... and afraid to get someone else's odor on them. You never hear about any kind of awful crisis that they might be going through. And they don't ever get dirty. Life is just a joy to them. And there's a part of you that wants to slap them into some kind of reality if they say, "Blessings" to you just one more time!

Some of us are good at wearing the "church mask" that we put on when we walk through the doors of our respective congregations, aren't we? Or at least we think we are. But we're not fooling God. God sees our nail beds. He knows what's there. And what's lacking.

Why is there this innate need to impress? Or the need to "stay clean"? Why is there this feeling that we should not be real or that we shouldn't reveal the truth about ourselves to Him or to those around us??? And if we are truly following Christ's example, shouldn't there be a little dirt under our own nails from cleaning someone else's feet?

If He knows us, even as we are fully known, then why the pretending or hiding or the desire to only show the good parts of us? And why the lack of involvement in the lives of others?

I think I need a pedicure. And maybe a physician. Probably not in that order. Especially before any of you guys ever have to wash my feet. Or not. I may just buy me some sandals.

And then I may grab a towel.

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