Washing feet…and the puked on sheets
Holy week. Holy hell-of-a-week for the priest and church staff. I’m married to an Episcopal priest, in fact celebrating 10 years of marriage tomorrow (yahoo Good Friday) but the married-to-a-priest is still somewhat new as he’s been ordained almost 4 years. Before that it was weeks on end in Afghanistan visiting prisons and working to support justice (and female justices), before that it was as an Americorps member teaching leadership in North Carolina through the guise of anti-tobacco programming, before that micro-enterprise in rural Uganda during policy school at Georgetown, youth ministry and mission trips while at Williams…and so on.
This is a busy week. So many services, so many bulletins, so many songs to choose, so many people…. so of course at 3 am our eldest pukes all over the bed. Now as a parent to a 5 year old and 10 month old this happens. The only anomoly is that both me AND the baby fell asleep before 8:30 and slept THROUGH THE NIGHT (emphasis added because FINALLY baby FINALLY). I didn’t even hear the commotion and I’ve been known to wake when the dog sneezes. I had no clue until at 6am I rolled over shocked at the time and said how did you sleep…..
And today is Maundy Thursday, my favorite Church service of the year. Tonight at Church we wash each others feet acting out the same motions that Jesus did as he washed the Disciples feet. Now, this is undoubtedly not a hot selling point for those unacccustomed to church or just wading into what is this whole Easter mess about — come in! Take off your shoes! Let a stranger touch your toes while sitting in front of a crowd! I grew up in the church and there are many things that I don’t love (incense overload — think of the poor asthmatics back here!, side-eye when the kids are loud, happy songs sung like a dirge….I digress) but this service gets me
As far away as I may go into the “stress” of my life, the planning, the work, the making bottles and packing lunches, the waves of grief, the getting annoyed because of dumb comments on Twitter — away from God at the center, this one brings me back. With water and feet.
Could you imagine knowing that you were the Son of God, knowing that what was about to transpire would change everything and then stopping to wash disgusting feet? Leading by acting as the servant?
Many of us, me included, knowing that soon our time would be up would be trying to cram all the creature comforts in at once (massage on the beach while eating sushi surrounded by best friends?) or cowering away in total fear. To stop in the midst of it all and not only think of others, but put yourself at the lowest and literally take the dirt off them…..Jesus reminds us that yes, the world is crazy, yes there is pain, yes there is suffering, and YES we need to stop and wash each other’s feet.
Through this simple act Jesus shows us that even at the scariests part of our lives, when death may be near, when we are doubting, when we are stressed out, when we are too angry to understand, when we are — insert any of the emotions the Disciples were likely feeling — to stop and serve. Interrupt the tradition/cycle/schedule and do someting. Not “thoughts and prayers” do something, not #hashtagcaring do something, but roll up our sleeves, look another human in the eyes and act.
Like washing the puked on sheets and giving the 5 year old a shower at 3 am when you’re starting what is the absolute busiest 90 hours of the Church year and you’re the rector and you still let your wife stay asleep. Simple acts when the choice could have been to tell someone else to do it, ignore it, or get annoyed by it. Doing it anyway.
I’m thankful for many things, not the least of these is 10 years of marriage to an amazing man. I’m thankful for the constant opportunity that God gives us to remember in overwhelming moments we are given a chance at grace. We are instructed quite directly and by example to act in service even if it’s as simple as washing feet.