Washing the feet of a little princess while a cancer survivor washed the feet of a beautiful girl in the fight of her life.
This weekend our church hosted an outreach called Samaritan’s Feet for children and teens in our community. My husband wanted our church to provide shoes for four hundred students with the understanding that twenty percent of the children who signed up would never walk through the doors to receive a new pair of shoes. We aimed higher hoping to reach at least four hundred who needed new shoes for the school year.
My job was to help assist the workers washing feet and fitting the children for shoes, I secretly hoped that I would get this station. I had some pretty incredible encounters with little people, but when I noticed a teenage boy walking towards me I wondered how he would respond to me or if we would connect. He sat down in front of me and I asked him if he was okay with me washing his feet or if he would prefer a man. Our youth pastor was right behind me and I knew I could recruit him if he was uncomfortable.
“I’m good with you doing this…ma’am, you really don’t want to wash my feet. I just got off work…”
He was worried that his feet were too dirty. I worried that mine weren’t dirty enough. I know how to work hard and I certainly remember what it’s like to live in a place of lack. But now I live in the land of more than enough and I long for a risky faith that reaches outside of comfortable Christianity and clean feet. I don’t want to just read the Word; I want to live it.
I smiled and looked down at his worn out shoes covered in grass and dirt.
“You mow lawns?”
“Yes, ma’am, I mow lawns to pay the bills. My brother and I work together.”
“I’m not worried about your dirty feet, I just want to serve you.”
He took off his shoes and socks as I asked a few questions about this man-child with sparkling blue eyes and dirty feet. He was fourteen, respectful, and working hard to pay bills. His mother came up in conversation two times and the third time he lovingly referred to her I wondered where his father was. Where was he and did he know that he should be beaming with pride?
I began washing his feet and my words spilled out, “I’m so proud of you and impressed by you.”
His eyes met mine filling up with tears as he lowered his head. I continued to speak softly as I finished drying his feet.
God is a father to the fatherless and advocates for the woman widowed by the one with a wondering heart. He fills in the gapped places and crevasses when daddy’s walk out. He stands in tattered places when daddies take their final breath and meet eternity leaving a void and emptied, priceless position.
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalm 68:5 NLT)
This is our God, the defender and provider for those who walk in lack and worn out shoes. He lifts up the head of the lonely woman and makes her strong enough to do the job of two, working hard to make up the difference for the absentee father. And He hears her cries in the night as she wrestles with guilt wondering if she’s doing right by her children.
He put on his brand new shoes and put his worn out shoes in a plastic bag. I wanted to give him so much more than new shoes. But I gave him love from on High and gave him my words to affirm him, applauding him for being someone who stepped up to the plate to honor his mother and help pay bills.
I asked him if I could pray with him, over his future and his home. And I did what comes so naturally to me; I mothered him. I took his arm that had the wristband with his name, age, and shoe size on it and prayed. And I cried as I asked our Daddy God to take my prayer and allow it to carry him through this tender transition from a loss of carefree boyish things to manhood as he shouldered responsibilities most boys his age couldn’t handle.
I wept for the fatherless gap so in awe at the human condition that takes a broken boy with empty pockets and makes him stand shoulders above the rest. This is a boy that could change the world. If he is our future we are in very capable, calloused hands. I want to be like that boy, bright-eyed and humble. I want to work just as hard as he does never expecting things to be handed to me.
I think we are barely scratching the surface of what we could do with our hands and feet extended to those in need, but I think we really tapped into something huge this weekend and I hope we continue to fill our church with families crying tears of gratitude over the way we loved on their children. I’ve always said that if you love my children, you are loving me…and I guess that is what Jesus was trying to tell the disciples
He asked him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was deeply hurt that he had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” So he told him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you!” Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17 NIV)
If you really love me, then you will love my people in a way that makes you uncomfortable at times. And when you get this, I’ll stop asking you to confirm it because your servant hood will prove it with actions that run so much deeper than what you think is above or beneath you.
In the end it’s all about obedience, not job requirements or comparing lesser, unglamorous roles to those we deem more important and make us feel like we are God’s gift to humanity. It’s not about “arriving” or seeing your name next to big, lofty titles and accolades. It’s about kingdom work and being the least and really being good at that.
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:26-28 NIV)
As I watched my church family serve and work so diligently, I fell in love with our congregation all over again. You made God proud and I just love you so much that I want to lock shields and continue to walk uncomfortable, uncharted places with you. I pray for dirty feet and diligent hands eager to tend to the tattered places in those who feel forgotten and orphaned. I really want to be good at being the least, never expecting life to be handed to me on a silver platter. I’ve learned the best way to get over brokenness is to tend to the broken. Today I just want dirty feet as I ask God to help me with the things that often distract me in this world, allowing them to grow strangely dim fading into starkness of selfish pride and ambition.
Much love to you,