When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
I’ll be honest, foot washing ceremonies creep me out. The few that I’ve been at have made me achingly uncomfortable. Not with the idea of serving, with the practice of sitting while people wash my mostly clean feet. Not being from foot washing cultures –either in the U.S. or China– the object lesson of serving is lost in all of the uncomfortable feelings as I’m wondering how long until I can escape. Which is kind of not the point of the exercise, right?!
Simon (not the Biblical one) asked who was going to cut the timing chips off of the runners’ feet as the crossed the finish line. Seeing as I was in charge of registration and had done, shall we say, not the best job of it, I felt obligated to help. Thankfully my friend Katie felt obligated to help me; in the best way that obligation and friendship can go together.
After kneeling about five times, the metaphor of it all about knocked me over (that and I was getting so light headed with all of the up-and-down on an mostly empty stomach). It’s the closest to a communal foot activity I’ve seen that mirrored the question Jesus asked. Do you understand what I have done for you?
Katie and I ‘served’ them with scissors.
Turns out, cutting off timing chips is harder and holier than it sounds.
The run was at dusk so the first few who crossed the finish lines were easy to see and cut the chips with relative ease. It helped that they were racing pro’s. As the sun set, I found myself groping for chips and doing my best not to cut shoe laces. Somewhere along, I can’t make this up, either a muscle got pulled or pinched in my right buttocks. How I don’t know, I had not run one single step. But there I was unable to easily get up and down and the only way I could navigate it without crawling around in the dark on the concrete was to get down on one knee like I was proposing to each person.
Some crossed with ease, obvious runners who loved pushing themselves. May I cut your chip?
A handful made sure that I, the chip cutter, knew that whoever designed this course should have to run it. My God, those hills. Yes, yes, may I cut your chip? No, the other foot. Thank you and well done!
The children with their quadruply tied shoe laces as parents hadn’t trusted bread twistys in the light and I now fumbled in the dark. May I cut your chip? Oops, or untie it?
The families and groups that ran together and now were celebrating a tangled mass of delight. May I cut your chip?
The heavy breathing that comes when you have thrown yourself into a task. May I cut your chip?
Sweat, pride, and at times raw delight now that they were done– over and over offering their feet to Katie and me to “wash” as they had run the race set before them and heard a Well done from us (and at times, Wait, come back! I need to cut off your chip).
It was holy ground as they stopped and let us cut the chips. Fumbling in the dark, bearing an odd wound myself, side-by-side with my friend, wielding something that could do real damage, but using it for good, encouraging fellow sojourners.
Do you understand what I have done for you?
Yes Jesus, we try to. And though we fumble and at times can’t see what we are doing and we may be wounded, thank you for giving us to each other. Thank you for not leaving us alone. Thank you for the example you set for us.