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Right before leaving New Orleans, I spent a weekend on a women’s retreat on the beach in Biloxi with some ladies from my church. We spent a lot of time worshipping, praying, and eating s’mores. So many s’mores. To conclude our fellowship, the leaders of our retreat washed our feet.
I honestly always thought feet washing was silly. Professors and pastors explained time and again how rancid and dirty feet could be during biblical times, so I understood why Jesus did it and all. But in America today, our feet are pretty clean. My peppermint foot lotion and Toms do the trick.
While I waited my turn, to my chagrin I watched women sob vehemently while their feet were washed. I watched excessively long hugs and wasted paper towels serving as tissues. Even the foot washers cried. Each corner of the room hosted a young woman with a Bible or journal, praying and crying her eyes out.
When I walked up to the bucket of water, my biggest concern was if everyone else would judge me for being the only woman who wouldn’t cry over this 2,000 year old tradition. I placed my feet into the bucket of warm water and exhaled deeply because the woman washing my feet shook with tears.
She didn’t look up at me or pray. She just began sharing with me her simple opinion of me. She didn’t say anything amazing. She didn’t compliment my figure or my quick wit. She just spoke of how I joined her small group and how it baffled her that I would join her group. I thought maybe she was going to compliment me then, and tell me how my intellectual prowess had deeply changed her life.
But she didn’t. She talked about how God used me.
I thought the church placed me in her group based on my address and God placed me there to give me friends in a new city. But to her, my presence encouraged her that leading a small group and volunteering her time each Monday night meant something. I was a stranger who cared enough to stay and return each week. It wasn’t about me. It was about God.
Too much of me worries about being the person I think I should be. I should be the girl who joins a small women’s Bible study and goes on church retreats. I should be strong. I shouldn’t cry over a simple foot washing.
But if I had stopped focusing so much on me, I could’ve seen how God used everyone around me.
Instead, I found myself with my feet in a blue bowl of lukewarm water shared with a dozen other feet feeling selfish. I thought I was being exactly the right person. God sent me to New Orleans, to this church, to this small group, to this retreat to this moment. Why did I suddenly feel so small?
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. John 13:10
When I joined a small group, I thought I would teach what I learned in my religion classes or find new friends to keep me company. My scope marked me and blurred out everyone else.
Life isn’t about me, despite my best efforts. Now as I prepare for marriage, I know life can’t be about me. Life is about all of the people around us.
Once that truth hit me, yes, I too started to cry a little bit.