The routine has become familiar. He sits across from me on our dirt “patio” that serves as meeting area and make-shift clinic. I bring water in a basin and soap for bathing his dirt-caked feet. He soaks his wounds, the water softening the layers of cow dung he applies to keep the flies away. I began to wash his feet, taking off weeks of dirt and grime.
And I think to myself, what a dirty job.
Toenails long and black with mud...cow dung...oozing wounds...I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub some more. I pick the cow dung slowly, piece by piece, off of his open sores. I clip his toenails and then scrub some more.
And I remember Someone else who had this job.
“Jesus...rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5
And I am struck by how uncomfortable this must have been for him. It's such a humbling thing to wash someone's feet...the dirt, the cow dung, the wounds, the stooping and bending, the serving.
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15
I'm beginning to see a pattern.
Jesus' life was full of discomfort. So many crowds, so little privacy. So many wounds, so little thanks. So much pain and suffering, so much sacrifice and service, so much feet washing, so many examples.
Examples...meaning he wants us to be like Him. To be like him in the feet washing, to bend and stoop, to humble ourselves and do the dirty jobs. Because believe it or not, God is not a comfortable God. And he doesn't call us to be comfortable.
God doesn't call us to be comfortable.
Two weeks ago my gardener, Wari, took a man into his home. Not a relative, not even a close friend, just a man who was dying of AIDS. He had no family, at least none that cared about him, and was living out his last days alone in the health center in Kotido. Wari brought him to his home and began caring for him in the most intimate ways. He spent the small money he had on sodas, and every morning during prayer we would see him trudging up the hill to find a shepherd with fresh milk for his new friend. In the last few days of the man's life Wari often had to bathe him and wash his clothes because of his incontinence. During these times we would find Wari sharing God's love with the dying man, offering words of hope and peace, of life after death for those who accept God's forgiveness. The day before yesterday the man passed into eternity. Wari dressed his body for burial, found a hearse (our car), and took his body back to his family's home. They spent the whole day digging the grave and burying the man with only one family member in attendance.
And I thought to myself, what a dirty job.
The washing, the bathing, the carrying, the digging, the stooping and bending, the serving.
But God doesn't call us to be comfortable, he calls us to be foot washing servants. And what joy there is in knowing that the more we stoop and bend, the more we become like him. There's no better thing we could wish for in life than to be like our Rabbi. No matter the dirty jobs, no matter the discomfort, I want to follow his example. Will you join me?
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17