Please Wash My Grimy Feet

By Marcy Barthelette

If asked to choose a favorite place for vacation, I’m hard-pressed to decide between the mountains and the beach. Each holds a different but very deep fascination for me. Today I’m in a beachy frame of mind, perhaps inspired by our very cold winter blast. I’m particularly attracted to the white sugary sands and shimmering turquoise water found on the gulf coast. The car is barely parked before my flip flops are discarded and my toes are dipping in the warm sand. I can walk for miles with my feet in the surf, the waves continuously rolling to shore and then subsiding. The relentless ebb and flow calm my soul like nothing else can. I think God gave me this gift to show me just how constant his love is.

The breakers tumble some distance out from shore and then flow in carrying all kinds of treasures, abandoned shells, polished chunks of colored glass, sand smoothed driftwood, and countless other objects. As the waves pull away from the shore, tiny crabs are uncovered and scramble to bury themselves before a shorebird scoops them up for lunch. And hermit crabs scurry across the dry sand toward their holes hoping to avoid a similar fate.

The little sandpipers scramble back and forth with the ebb and flow. They crave the tiny morsels that surface with wave action, but they just don’t like to get their feet wet. Seagulls fly overhead begging for a handout and I truly love watching the pelicans dive for a fish. They fly just above the surface and when they spot a likely meal, they dive with such force you would think their giant beaks would break. But they surface and stretch their necks up high to swallow their catch whole before resting on the surf. On a lucky day, I may gaze over the water to find dolphins jumping a bit offshore, feeding on a school of something that was carried with the current. There’s always something to see and learn about. While the tidal patterns are constant, they offer up an endless variety of creatures and treasures to study and enjoy.

All too soon, the time always comes when I must traipse back across the dry sand dunes with wet feet and reclaim my flip-flops. And this is the bad part. It’s hard enough to leave that beautiful shore but now my feet are covered in sand and I can hardly wait to find one of the many sprinklers provided in parks and at hotels for washing dirty feet.

Jesus came to a world of dirty feet! Our journey through life is much dirtier than we think.
Ray Pritchard

So isn’t it easy to understand that trudging through desert sand in open sandals must leave one’s feet feeling really grimy? In Jesus’ day, it was custom to always wash the feet when entering a home and where servants were present, they did the washing. But when Jesus wrapped the towel around himself and knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, they didn’t understand this breach of protocol. Masters never stooped to such menial tasks, but Jesus did. We all know that Peter objected, as was a common reaction for him, but Jesus explained that if one had a bath in the morning, only the feet needed to be cleansed at the close of day.

A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet. John 13:10

As was usual for our teacher, Jesus, his explanations were sometimes quite confusing. But I think this one is simple to grasp. When we are baptized, we are bathed completely and our sins are washed away, but each day we walk through our world in “sandaled feet” where all manner of dirt and grime tries to grab hold of us. By end of the day, our bodies and minds need to be cleansed of that daily layer of filth. We need to come to God and accept responsibility for the mistakes we have made during that day. Our feet need to be washed. And doesn’t it feel good to place your feet in warm water when they’re really tired, grungy, and aching? 

If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.
John 13:14 CEB

Likewise, if He has been willing to cleanse away all our grime — wash our feet — shouldn’t we be willing to forgive others for the “grime” in their lives — wash their feet?

Lord Jesus, thank you for your blood that washes my sin away. I ask you to wash my dirty feet so
I might walk closely with you today. Amen. (Faces Around the Cross, Ray Pritchard)

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