My daughter Abby decided to give me a foot rub last night (I think she's still feeling grateful for the midnight rescue!), and she began with washing my feet. I was half-reading a book, and listening to her chat away about the day as she rubbed my dirty, hot, tired feet with her wet towel.
"Hey, I'm like Jesus! I'm washing your feet!" she exclaimed with a sudden revelation that she was being a true servant as well as sweet. (She already knew she was being sweet because I kept telling her so!)
She seemed truly amazed that she wound up doing something "good" that occurred, often, in the Bible. Something we don't do much of, for others, because frankly- it's a bit awkward in today's society. I don't mind (well, actually I MORE than don't mind) my daughter washing my feet because she and I love "spa day" at home. We laugh and chat and giggle together when we do pedicures or facial masks in the privacy of our home.
But washing feet for someone I don't know? Does the Bible really want me to do that today? Some of us have tried this in small fellowship groups and the results have been mixed: experiences of real fellowship and tenderness, experiences of awkwardness and "this is weird!-
and that's okay.
I think we need to get back to the purpose of the foot washing: it was to relieve the distress of the weary, dirty, tired traveler in Biblical times. The foot washing was done by servants used to handling "the dirty work" of tasks that were crucial to survival and comfort: servants cooked, cleaned, and washed feet. It wasn't meant to be this deeply moving spiritual experience with eyes locked on each other and solemn silence all around. It was ministering to the needs of the weary traveler who had come in the door from God-only-knows-where.
Today, we have a lot of people coming from all kinds of tough backgrounds and stressful situations. They walk in through our front door or into our churches and they need the equivalent of a foot washing- and they need it now.
Forget bringing out a pan of warm water and a cloth. Instead, give them what they need: help with getting rid of the soil of the world grinding into their souls, the coolness of something that relieves their thirst for something they haven't yet found, and rest for their frantic minds that can't solve the problems that persistently press in to their lives. You've got what they need- and today, it isn't a actual foot washing- it's more than that.
4[The Servant of God says] The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. Isaiah 50:4 Ampl.
When I am tired and feeling sullied by the world and overwhelmed by life, nothing ministers to my soul more than an encouraging word, a prophetic word that points me forward, or the words of a friend who is lifting up my burdens to God and calling down God's grace on me.
There's a lot more than dirty feet at stake here. Souls are waiting to hear a word that will set them free, a word that will cause them to look up and see ...HE is there.
(Special thanks go out to all my friends who've "washed my feet" and have encouraged my soul,especially my Proverbs 31 "speaker" friends!You all do know how to Speak a word in season!)