Fathers can be foot washers too

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

Any parent knows that children can be downright stinky.

They may start out with what my mother calls “that new baby smell.” But by the time they reach 2-years old that new-baby smell begins to wear off. That’s not just because the diapers get stinkier. No, the children get sweatier too.

These days, my son seems to be a dirt magnet. After running up and down the sidewalk a thousand times, tromping through the muddy garden and picking up almost any small object in sight, there is no question where the dirt comes from.

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So when Gibson heads in from a busy day outside, Mom and Dad steer him directly for the bathtub.

There have been a few times when, I swear, the water changes to shades of muddy brown as Gibson bathes.

Then, if just for a moment, the new baby smell returns. By the time Gibson hops out of the tub, his skin feels softer, his hair shines brighter and the hugs are definitely sweeter.

Such were my thoughts Thursday night as the reader in church read verses from John 13 in the Bible.

I have heard the verses each Easter season.

Jesus takes off his robe, wraps a towel around his waist and begins washing the feet of his disciples sitting around the Passover table.

When he approaches Simon Peter, the disciple immediately refuses, not willing to have the Savior perform the lowly act of foot washing.

I must confess, I can identify with Simon Peter. Not only do I hate the thought of others washing my feet, I am not sure I can imagine Christ looking down at my paddy, poorly kept and misshapen toes.

Admittedly, I have the same aversion at the thought of washing other people’s feet.

In our church each Maundy Thursday, we commemorate Jesus’ act of servitude by participating in our own foot washing ceremony.

Unlike other years, in which the priests washed the feet of those who offered to participate, Trinity Episcopal Church did things differently.

John writes that Jesus said this to his disciples:

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

And so we tried to model that for one another in the service. Each person lined up to have his or her feet washed, then washed the feet of the next person in line.

Each year I watch this service, I look at those in line and try to justify my reluctance to participate.

“She’s a nurse,” I thought to myself as one woman walked up. “She does things like that at the hospital.”

“He going to be a priest,” I caught myself thinking as a man had his feet dried off with a towel. “He’s just practicing.”

Of course, such notions discount the thoughts and emotions of these individuals and only indict me for my unwillingness to submit myself to such a selfless act.

But what caught me off guard the most was when another woman walked up to have her feet washed and I immediately thought to myself, “Oh yeah. She’s a mother.”

It was then that I thought of my 22-month-old and all of the stinky diapers and dirt covered arms and legs that I have cleaned in the past months.

Using my own criteria, I discovered that there really are no excuses. It was then that I realized my faulty thinking.

As Christians we should all strive to selflessly serve one another. I know I am not there yet, but I am working on it.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540. or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com