Let Me Help You

dirty feet IMG_4615

“Two-gun Pete with the stinky feet!” my husband crooned as he tickled his baby grandson’s toes.
“What? Where did you learn that?” I asked.

The baby laughed one of those contagious giggles that makes you repeat what ever action brought on the delightful response.

“Two-gun Pete with the stinky feet!” he chanted again, blurbling the soles of Baby’s chubby feet. “It’s something my Granny used to sing,” he added, smiling at our precious boy as if he were passing on a profound family secret.
“Is there more to this song?”
“That’s all I remember.”

The ‘baby’ is wearing size nine gym shoes now. If stinky is involved, it’s his problem.

You know, the oddest things fall off the shelves in my brain when I give my head a shake. The Pete’s Feet ditty started playing on my internal music machine while reading the story in the Bible about Peter refusing, at first, to let Jesus wash his feet. I wondered, if Peter possessed two guns that night if he would have used them instead of the sword he wielded to cut off someone’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus. He seemed the type.

The Passover meal they ate marked the last evening the whole gang spent together before the crucifixion. Jesus knew what was about to happen, so everything he did and said carried importance the way last conversations before partings do, even when nobody else recognizes its seriousness.

At one point, Jesus got up, grabbed a basin with water, tied a towel around his waist, and washed the other disciples’ feet. He came to Peter. Peter protested.

Peter looked at Jesus and said, “You’ll never wash my dirty feet—never!”
“But Peter, if you don’t allow me to wash your feet,” Jesus responded, “then you will not be able to share life with me.” (from John 13 in The Passion Translation)

When Peter refused, Jesus confronted him sternly. This was important. This was so important that Jesus said Peter could not be a part of him if he did not let Jesus wash his feet. That’s a harsh thing to say to someone who has given up everything to follow you. Why did Jesus insist?

I’ve always looked at this foot-washing act as a demonstration of the need to imitate Christ in his willingness to minister to others as a humble servant. That lesson is certainly there, but lately I’ve seen more in this story.

Pete probably had stinky feet, sanitation being what it was in the days of dusty roads and animals in the streets. Jesus was his Lord. One simply does not plop one’s unattractive stinky parts in the lap of someone one is trying to worship, and probably impress.

Peter saw himself as a servant, someone who was ready to honour and protect the man he recognized as the Son of God. He carried the sword they scrounged up at the last minute and he used it in defense of his Master.

He came from a culture with a pecking order where people knew their place. He was ready to play the part of looking after Jesus. He announced his intentions to do so. He followed the rules. But Jesus had different expectations. He was asking Peter to see things differently. Like me, Peter needed serious nudging to provoke change.

At the last supper Jesus told his disciples that he didn’t call them servants, like most would expect. He called them friends.

“You show that you are my intimate friends when you obey all that I command you. I have never called you ‘servants,’ because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father.” (John 15:14, 15)

When we first came to faith in Christ many of us approached as orphans, grateful for shelter and nourishment. A lot of people remain content with that level of relationship. Others move on to become servants out of gratitude and respect and sincere desire to demonstrate love. Many of us secretly hope, through self-sacrificing servanthood, to secure a place in the Lord’s affections by becoming useful in the Kingdom.

Jesus wants something else. He wants us to participate in intimate friendship with him.

What did Jesus ask of his disciples?

“So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply!” (verse 17)

Loving one another deeply requires mutual submission. Submission is not a word I like. Surrender is even worse. Both bring back memories of ‘play’ fights with my brothers that didn’t end until someone said ‘uncle’ or someone was hurt or humiliated — often all three.

By washing their feet, Jesus demonstrated a serving attitude in leadership as opposed to the usual “lording over” attitude of religious and political hierarchies. By confronting Peter he also gave the clear message: Unless you are willing to accept help — my help — you can’t be a part of this.

More than the message, “Help others,” Jesus also preached, “Let others help you,” and specifically, “Let Me help you.”

I realized this is the aspect of submission that I missed for so many years. I didn’t understand what the word means. Submission doesn’t mean being a doormat to someone who would take advantage. Submission means saying, “How can I extend myself to help you to become all Christ means you to be?” Submission also means responding to Christ in others when he says through them, “Let me help you.”

Submission means becoming vulnerable, but becoming vulnerable to God’s goodness.

Can I admit one of the more horrifying aspects of my health adventures in the past two and a half years has been the humiliating need to sometimes present for examination embarrassing parts of my body I prefer to keep under wraps? There’s nothing like both major gynecological and bowel surgery in one year to put a large dent in one’s sense of decorum. When you live in a small city that can involve the participation of your friend’s husband guiding a camera on the end of a probe, or a former student wiping your butt with a damp wash cloth, or a visiting relative holding a basin.

I understand Peter. I don’t want people I hold in esteem to have to deal with my less-than-attractive parts. I feel entirely too vulnerable. I would much rather see myself as someone who helps than as someone who needs help.

Lately, I have needed help. I am learning to quit dropping subtle (and sometimes whiney) hints and admit when I can’t do something.

I have learned, in this process, that I am not the only one in the crowd with metaphorical stinky feet (and other inglorious bits.) The more we become family as we connect with the Holy Spirit in each other, the more people trust us by being honest about their own messy lives. When we can offer the same grace we have received, relationships develop and love grows.

Perhaps it is not until we have been in a position of needing help that we begin to understand how to offer help in a way that preserves the dignity of both the giver and the receiver.

I wonder if some people who find themselves in prolonged seasons of feeling inadequate for the task (as Peter did after he discovered his deeply disappointing weakness), are in training for positions greater influence. I wonder if the story of Jesus washing his friends’ feet was as much about learning to receive graciously as to give graciously.

At the very least, I hear Jesus’ gentle chiding, “I dearly want you to be able to share life with me. But first, let Me help you.”

And When I Am Alone

DSC_0011 plum blossom bokeh

I’m alone on my porch on a beautiful spring morning, drinking my second cup of coffee and watching the sunlight sift through the plum tree. It’s been less than a week since we stood in a downpour and committed my Dad’s body to the earth. Everyone has gone home, back to work. The flowers have wilted and the sympathy cards are stacked on a corner of the kitchen table.

Life goes on.

When I gave the eulogy at his funeral I talked to the children and told them about the great-grandfather most of them did not know before he had forgetting disease. We included all the children in our gathering because what better way is there to teach them about physical death and spiritual life than with a family member who loved the Lord, lived to an old age, and was longing to be present with the Lord and reunited with his loved ones? I spoke of all his fine qualities and the wonderful things he taught us. We do that at funerals. It’s about honour.

But there are things we don’t talk about. Like all human beings going back to Adam’s grandchildren he was the wounded son of a wounded son. He brought his deficits into our relationship the way I dragged mine into my own children’s nursery. There were seasons when I adored him and seasons when I avoided him for months at a time.

It was complicated.

I don’t think I had left anything unsaid before he passed away. He said he forgave me. I had certainly forgiven him and Jesus had replaced a whole lot of unwanted feelings with love and compassion for him, but there are a lot of things I can’t explain no matter how many words I use. No sympathy in form of visits or cards or flowers – or even therapy – can ever say, “I understand.” We say that to each other, but we don’t understand, not really. Every heart has its own sorrow. Every heart is alone in grief.

But we do not have to be totally alone. There is one who understands all our weaknesses. Unlike so many of the versions fed to us by angry unapproachable people of an angry unapproachable God who can’t bear to look at us because of our sin, Jesus approached us first. He, who was the perfect representative of the nature of Father God, chose to associate with those whose sins had become a part of their names -the harlot, the thief, the drunk, the hypocrite. He sat down right beside them. He was not disappointed in them because he never had any expectations in the first place. He had sympathy and compassion for them. He wept with them. He loved them. His joy in going to the cross was in knowing the freedom and new names they – and all who call on his name – would receive.

Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God

who has passed through the heavens from death into new life with God, let us hold tightly to our faith.

For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.

He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.

(Hebrews 4:14-16 The Voice)

This morning  an old song came to mind:

In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.

And when I am alone,
Give me Jesus.

And when I come to die,
Give me Jesus.

You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.

He’s all I need. Because of him life goes on – eternally.

Nothing is impossible for You

For the past two weeks my four-year old granddaughter has asked for the same song, “Strings” by Misty Edwards to be played over and over again. Today as I took all three little ones to a friend’s so I could rush to the hospital after learning her daddy’s condition had deteriorated, I asked if she wanted to hear “Strings”. I thought it might calm my soul as well.

She said, “No. Play the next song.”

It was, “I believe that you’re my healer.”

“That’s the one!” she said.

I didn’t tell her what was happening with Daddy, but she sang so sweetly and innocently and confidently in the back seat:
Nothing is impossible for you
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for you...

Daddy was so unstable this morning they didn’t dare move him across the hallway into the O.R., but rather did further surgery on him in the ICU.

He lives.

We cling to hope.

Ice Fishers

Ice fishing
Ice fishing

I have friends who love ice fishing. They are out there all bundled up before dawn and after dusk just for the thrill of pulling a skinny little fish out of the hole.

Me? I have to contemplate whether the joy of  buying a hunk of fish more frozen than the ones in the lake is worth scraping the snow off the car to drive down to the Superstore. The whole idea of freezing precious parts of my anatomy to catch one from a frozen lake leaves me cold. Ice fishing is not my talent and I politely refuse even when friends try to pressure me into joining them. I don’t even feel guilty, which almost makes me feel guilty, but not quite.

 

Did you KNOW about Candy Canes?

Delight
Delight

Travel is always iffy this time of year, in this part of the world. We live in the Rocky Mountains, but our adult children have all followed the jobs to prairie cities.  It is understood that estimated times of arrival are followed with a “weather permitting” in most of Canada in the winter. We will be there by a certain time if –if the passes are open, if the roads have been plowed, if no trucks have jack-knifed on the icy curves, if the winds don’t whip up white-out conditions, if the car starts again after we stop for lunch…

One year the nine hour trip to our grandchildren’s house for Christmas took two days. We had to stop half way and wait for the plows and sanding trucks. It was nearly minus 40 Celsius when we reached Northern Alberta and in spite of a good heater our feet were freezing. Icicles actually formed inside the car from our breath. We were frankly a little stressed and rather grumpy when we pulled up in front of the house.

As we trudged up the walk on crunchy, squeaky snow (very cold snow is loud), necks retreating into our parkas like frazzled turtles, our little grandson flung open the front door and yelled, “Did you KNOW about canny canes?”

“What, honey?”

“DID YOU KNOW ABOUT CANNY CANES? Why nobody tell me about canny canes afore?”

He pulled us into the house and before we had time to take our fogged-up glasses off or share hugs all around, he shoved green and red striped candy canes into our mitted hands. “You lick them like this! But first you should take off the plastic. Did you KNOW about canny canes? Wow! They so good!”

He spun around the room doing a hilarious canny cane dance. “Why you didn’t tell me?”

The strain of the previous two days disappeared entirely as we experienced joy through a three-year old’s taste buds.

Sometimes I feel like that about Jesus Christ. I want to fling open the door and shout, “Did you KNOW about Jesus? Did you KNOW how good He is? Why nobody tell me about this good Jesus afore? Wow! He’s so good!!” Then I do my funny little God-is-so-good dance. You should see it.

Joy comes with the morning.