My daughter is 21 and my son 18 years old. All through their childhood, adolescent, teen and these post-teen years I’ve been caring for them to the best of my ability. When they were little, I washed and cared for every part of their darling bodies. I reined in my share of throw-ups and bloody mishaps without begrudging. It wouldn’t matter what time of day or night their distress would beckon; I’d fly into action on their behalf most readily.
Now that they’re all but grown up, they don’t typically require so much from me physically, but I am summoned to give my emotional and financial support. All those years of caring have assured them like the old Jackson Five tune states, “I’ll be there.” Of course I would be—I love them. I believe what Elizabeth Stone stated is true. “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
But lately I’ve been wondering about my Christianity. I know that I’m a good mother, but am I Christlike? It’s easy to love my children and serve them selflessly, but when I consider people like Mother Theresa, for example, I wonder if I have done enough in the area of selfless serving.
If you could see inside my heart you’d know that I’m afraid and repulsed by street people. Although I’ve participated in a number of homeless focused volunteer activities, no matter how hard I try, my heart hasn’t gone out to them. I wonder within why anyone would choose to live such a pathetic life. How come they don’t find help in the many resources our community has made for them? How can it be that in a country with so much and so many places to find shelter that this subset within our culture remains outside the help that they must want and so obviously need? I’m trying to understand but I don’t really get it.
I go to church each week. I help out where needed. I don’t swear, smoke or drink for that matter. I work and make an honest living. And, until recently, I’d thought that was enough.
I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the fact that my children are all but grown and I now have more time to contemplate the bigger good that my motives and life’s work seem to be called in for review. I wonder if we could be doing more.
Just recently I attended an event focused toward helping the homeless. This might have turned out to be just another of those obligatory volunteer situations that I venture into and endure from time to time except for the testimony of two of the guest speakers. They were former “street people,” and their stories were not only touching but also inspiring. I came to realise that the homeless are first of all human. Many of them were cast for their growing years into a darkness we will never know and would shudder to hear about. I realise now that I haven’t been able to relate because I haven’t understood them. Like the proverb says, “Never criticise a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” It’s a lesson I hadn’t learnt.
Not that this is anything new. On the final evening that Jesus Christ had with His disciples before His crucifixion, He had yet much to teach them. They had no understanding that He would die the next day. They were waiting for Him to become Jerusalem’s “Idol.” He had the talent and the skill. For three years they had followed Him. With their own eyes they had observed Him healing the sick, raising the dead and feeding thousands miraculously. Their hearts were filled with the glory they would have as His closest confidants whenever the red carpet was rolled out and he took the limelight of fame.
But that wasn’t what Christ was about. He came to serve. His love surpasses even that of a mother’s heart. He saw where the needs were and he went to work. Painfully He watched their rivalling actions and eyes fill with the lust for greatness.
How could it be that He’d been with them for all these years and they still didn’t get it? He must have wondered. Then, the Bible says,* He took off His outer garment and took up a towel, then totally surprised them by washing their feet.
So Jesus expressed His love for all His disciples. He knew all about their selfish spirit and the disloyalty of one whom had already sealed His fate through betrayal, but that didn’t prevent Him from washing their feet.
It was customary to have a servant wash the feet of the guests in those days, but this requirement had been overlooked. Certainly it wasn’t expected that the guest of honour would take up this responsibility, even if the disciples each felt it wasn’t their personal responsibility. It was Christ’s intent to teach the disciples that pride and strife for supremacy are not the precursors for service. This lesson in humility was not only exemplified for their benefit but for all of us.
When He finished He said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” In this statement He wasn’t referring only to the need to be hospitable, but pointed to what was even more important, the need to serve others.
Foot washing, or the ordinance of humility as it is sometimes called, assures that we have the opportunity to be reminded of His intent for humans. We all can find what we need in Christ—forgiveness, grace and a place to serve as His ambassadors. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of the poor, the helpless and the ignorant. In Christ we are all united in humiliation unto actions and responses to help those in need.
Thankfully the wellbeing of those around me hasn’t been reliant upon my getting the gospel. Fortunately there is a community structure that includes a network of medical, legal and community professionals, service workers and volunteers that focus on taking care of the needs of others every day. I admire the work and commitment to the good of all humankind they exhibit in their life’s work and the benefit that their service provides. Their countless hours of caring go beyond the scope of this article but cannot be overlooked or left unrecognised.
I’ll never be one of them but I believe in some small way there is a benevolent act that is required of me in some garden of service to others, beyond my family circle. It is my responsibility to find it and get involved.
Babbie Mason wrote and sings a song titled, “Each One, Reach One.” This pretty much sums up Christ’s ministry—the lesson He was hoping the disciples would learn that faraway night. It’s the spirit of service that He wished to preserve and ignite in you and me.