Wash My Feet
I woke up this morning thinking about Maundy Thursday, thinking about the washing of feet, about the scandalous ways of Jesus. The beloved disciple reclining against the bosom of Jesus. The woman, Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus with her hair. The anointed one bending down as servant to wash the dirty feet of his disciples.
Foot washing is uncomfortable business. It’s intimate, personal, awkward. It’s humbling—to be the one handling and rinsing the foot of another, to be the one receiving that same touch and care.
For much of the day, I tried to imagine washing the feet of Donald Trump. It was a challenging task to conjure the imagination.
Politics aside, I struggled with his personhood, with trying hard to truly see him not as a personality or a blow hard, but just as a human. A man who lives in an aging body. A dad. A granddad. A man who snores and passes gas. A man who laughs, not at the expense of others, but just laughs at joyful things.
In spite of the difficulty, I sat with it throughout the day. Because it is easy to dehumanize those we don’t know personally, especially those with whom we take issue, mindfully placing myself near our current president was an act of repentance as much as anything.
Other people sat in the chair, waiting for someone to take up the towel and to wash. I tried Colin Kaepernick, the Obamas, and the woman from the NRA—people that receive derision, people whom we generally determine we know at heart levels, people much like President Trump who are easily caricatured and spat upon.
Since that practice was a stretch, an unattainable unreality, I brought it closer to home. For the first time in many years, we wouldn’t be attending a foot washing service this evening. I ended up creating small services throughout the day. In between trying to get an appointment with Donald Trump and the Obamas, I made a list of people whose feet I needed to clean. I made a list of those from whom I needed to receive such an offering.
It started at home with my son, whose 6-foot frame overwhelms me. It’s a much more personal and quiet parenting season in these years. Dealing with time-outs and potty training, sassy mouths and getting out of bed 20 times after lights out—these things I could share abroad, or at least among friends. There is much that is not mine to tell. It’s not that it’s terrible now; some elements are powerfully good. It is though, as Mrs. Fox would describe, “you know, different.” My eyes teared up, thinking of my nearly grown son, begrudgingly but gratefully, letting me wash his once-small feet.
I thought of people from my past, folks in my now. People I love, people I don’t. Those from whom I’ve received wounding words or actions. Those whom I have wounded. I pictured them, trying to look in their faces, their eyes, wanting to see the essence of who they are in truth, in fullness, as the Image of God.
What about people who don’t believe like I do? Who decided that God isn’t real, or who feel abandoned by God? I tried to imagine them, some whose actual faces I could find, like a woman who was at the bus stop.
Do I have room at the basin to wash feet that walk on different paths? Do I have it within me to let my feet be wiped clean by those who don’t speak my language, who don’t read the same books, who don’t vote like me, who feel maligned by me?
The day moved into night, and the clock reads 10:10. Foot washing, the mess of it and the wonder of it, occupies my thoughts, still.
Peter said to Jesus, “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head! Wash all of me!”
Jesus said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.” (John 13)