I sat in the tiny chair, held up the Picture Bible a little higher for effect, and spoke in my best Miss Pattycake voice…
“…then, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist and washed their feet.”
They stared at me like little robots. Clearly, they aren’t paying attention, I thought.
So, like very good teacher, I said it again, s l o w e r and LOUDER: “Did you hear what I said?! He knelt before the disciples and WASHED their FEET! Their stinky, dirty, sinful feet.”
They crinkled their noses at the word “stinky”, and then… nothing. Just blank-staring, nose-picking, hair-twirling, pre-school crickets. Miss P. Cake, how do you do it?
Finally, one boy broke the silence, “Is that it? Is that the story?”
“Don’t blurt out. Sweetie.”
I fumbled through the rest of the lesson, hustled them off the story-time rug, then shoved coloring sheets and vanilla wafers at them until pickup.
Why weren’t they affected by this story like I am? Whenever I read it, I squirm in my chair and curl my toes. I can’t imagine the Savior of the World, the King of Kings, and Ruler of All stooping to scrub my bunions… it’s absurd. It’s profound. It’s the Gospel, for crying out loud!
Maybe I should have used the felt board? Or a laser show…
But really, I’ve taught this lesson countless times, in various ways, and the kids’ reaction is always the same. I’m starting to think that they just don’t get it.
About washing feet… kids aren’t impressed. I guess it’s because they are used to having a bigger mess than they can clean themselves. It’s part of their childish lives to rely on someone to wash, clothe, and feed them regularly.
However, I’ve forgotten what that’s like. I bet you have, too. We subconsciously squirm at the idea of Jesus taking care of our needs is because it’s been so long since we’ve allowed ourselves to be needy.
“and (Jesus) said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18: 3
All the children wonder what’s the big deal…
Perhaps it’s also because they have less to hide. Their young, soft-skinned feet are sweet and innocent, easy to love… and fun to wash.
Mine are harder to bear…and even harder to get clean. Years of rough paths and foot-stomping have created callouses and deep ruts.
Weeks of neglect and carelessness make for sharp toenails and dead skin.
So no thanks, Jesus. I’d rather you didn’t. I’ll just slip on some socks and take care of that myself… later.
Because honestly, I’m afraid that if He knew the hidden me, the foot-stomping, lazy-habit me, then there wouldn’t be enough grace. Enough love.
So in a very sophisticated way, I choose dirty, hungry, and alone rather than let anyone care for my sole. My soul.
But remember the story, boys and girls? Jesus ties a towel around his waist before this washing. He’s not setting up for some rubber-ducky sponge bath. This is a grown-up sized bowl and and a big-boy towel. He knows the water will splash for all the scrubbing. He knows of all the work that needs to be done if the real me – socks off and needy – shows up. He knows and reaches for the dirtiest parts of me anyway…
Kids are better at being known and loved, naked and unashamed.
I picked up the last stray crayon, swept the last wafer crumb, and thought about the little kids in my class. “Is that it?” they said. I love their simple faith. I love how it challenges mine. I love how they teach me.
That’s the thing about children. The unimportant things are so difficult for them, and the important things are so easy.
It’s the other way around for jerks like us.
So I’m watching closely, here on this circle rug and tiny chairs. I’m watching and learning the sockless faith of a child.
Wanna watch with me?
Oh, and by the way… you have a hole in your sock.