Monday, March 24, 2014

Embarrassing Grace

We made it through the first few verses of the passage and stopped to discuss. My daughter and a third grade boy sat across the table from me. They answered the questions I asked them and we looked down at our Bibles to continue reading.

"I already know this story." It wasn't arrogant. Just an off-hand remark from my daughter who indeed knows and remembers the story well.

"I do too," I replied. "But I'm learning something new from it right now."


"You bet." 

I wasn't lying.

I asked them, "Why did Jesus wash the disciples' feet?"
"Because He loved them."
"Ok," I answered, "but why wash their feet? Couldn't He have just bought them something pretty?"
"Jesus doesn't just give pretty things to show His love."

She was right of course. We talked about how Jesus took the place of a servant, the lowest of the servants, and He looked at what made them dirty. He put the nastiness right in His face.

"I see it. I see your filth. And I'm not avoiding it. I'm not condoning it. I'm not glossing over it. I'm not giving you pretty things and ignoring the muck that has accumulated from a life of weary travel. I'm taking care of it."

I wonder how rigorous a cleansing it was. It always looks so poetic and gentle. Clear water cascading down caramel toes. How His hands must have felt.

I asked the kids what they thought went through the disciples' minds as Jesus did this.

"Uh? Okkkkkaaayyy?" I'd agree with that answer.

Peter couldn't handle it. "You shall never wash my feet." (John 13:8)

He was embarrassed. Embarrassed by His rabbi. Embarrassed that the man he followed would do something even below Peter's station. At that moment he probably would have been happier with something pretty.

And I get that. Because after reading this passage and hearing a sermon about a love that never gives up, I wonder why. I don't get it. I'm embarrassed.

Why, Lord? Why do you keep doing this? Day after day. It's the same old dirt. I can't keep it off my feet. I try and try and try. Why demean yourself to wash me when I'm just going to do it again? You are holy, so holy. Don't do this to yourself. I've tried it all already. I'll totally understand if you want to quit on me.

And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way because just an hour later one of the cutest children on the planet (who is not even mine) asked that very question of my husband during the children's sermon. Her three year old brain registered Christ's sacrifice, and her three year old lips questioned "why"?

"Because He loves us so much."

She took that in. "When will Jesus stop loving us?"

"Never. He will never ever stop loving us."

Her foster mother smiled. Eyes around the sanctuary glistened as the mystery of God's love was explained in the simplest of terms to the littlest of souls. Broken hearts in the room swelled with the abundant love of Christ.

That three year old heart bears the pain of abandonment. The people meant to care for her have given up on her. This morning, she was given the knowledge of a love that never ends. Never ever. It's something her mind just couldn't comprehend.

We are so used to giving up. We can't escape it. At some point in our lives someone has given up on us.

We've given up on ourselves.

So when God makes Himself low enough to put His face not into our face, into our feet, and say I will wash and wash and wash. Every day. Because love doesn't give up.

It's just too much.

And He was leading by example. "For I have given you an example that you should do just as I have done to you." His gift of love was one to be shared, never contained.

So who are you going to embarrass today? Who will find a love in you a love that never quits? Step away from the pretty things. It's time to get dirty.

I'm praying for you this week, Sweet Friends. Praying that you are overwhelmed by Christ's love. Praying that His love steps into your life in a way that inspires you to serve others. Praying that you know you will always give up on yourself before Jesus does.

Because Jesus will never stop loving you. Never ever.