A dear friend stopped by our house recently witnessing the culmination of a very chaotic evening.
Dishes overflowed the sink and decorated almost every available inch of counter space in my kitchen.
Nine children roamed about almost entirely unsupervised. One fussy baby demanded her need for sustenance.
Two preteen girls masterfully attempted their first independent try at homemade banana bread.
Chaos at its most beautiful.
These are the moments I normally try to hide from people~the completely uncontrolled moments where rules are discarded, messes are exalted, and emotions are high.
A closed front door gives us permission to live these times PRIVATELY and only those closest are allowed to take a peek.
Thankfully, this was a good friend. I let her enter.
Well, I didn't really have a choice. I did have one of her children that I needed to find.
She masterfully maneuvered through the toys scattering the floor and plopped down in our kitchen surrounded by the mess of the dinner of a dozen people, banana bread batter, and sticky baby food.
The pots and pans and dishes and cups needed tackled. The baby protested louder.
Dishes. Baby. Dishes. Baby.
No way I could sit there and look at this disgusting leftover food dripping all over my counter, my sink, and my floor, while nursing my baby. Baby Hope's delicious chubby rolls of flub told me that she wouldn't starve in the next thirty minutes and her stomach pains could wait a little longer.
I thrust my wiggling, precious baby into the hands of my friend and made a request, "Will you hold this baby while I do my dishes?"
She stood up, put the baby back into my hands, and said, "No."
No? Not the answer I expected. She obviously wasn't as good of a friend as I thought.
"You feed your baby. I'm going to do your dishes."
And she rolled up her sleeves, filled up my sink with water, and began to scrub the hardened food off dish after dish.
I thought about protesting.
What kind of a hostess allows a friend, who didn't benefit from the joy before the mess, to clean the yuck of the night from the scene?
My baby settled into my arms as she sensed food was near.
And I sat there feeding my baby while my friend scrubbed dish after dish, pot after pot, until my kitchen was absent of any sign of disaster.
A servant. Someone who sees a need and doesn't take into account the lack of glory in the chore.
One who serves behind the scenes fully aware that there will be no earthly reward in the task.
As I went to bed that night and thought about this unselfish serving of my friend, all I could think was that she figuratively washed my feet. She wiped the evidence of my daily journey from the kitchen, scrubbed the junk from the traveling of the day from my people, and left us cleaner than she found us.
The washing of feet. Perhaps this was the lesson on service that I'd been after for my children. Service takes humility. Humility flies in the face of my house full of big and little sinners. To do something for another without the promise of reciprocation can sometimes be very painful. Every day, little voices in my home say, "I didn't make that mess." "Why do I have to clean that up?" "That's not my game on the floor." "I didn't drop that cereal." "They aren't my shoes." "That toothpaste all over the mirror doesn't look like my toothpaste." "Those puzzles aren't mine." "That's not my toilet paper clogging the toilet." And in stellar acts of parenting, I often squeak back in that high-pitched, insane mom voice, "If I only cleaned up my messes, you all would be living in a complete pig sty." " "If I only cleaned up my own dinner, you all would be living in a mess of mold." "If I only did my own laundry, you all would have no clothes." And I raise my voice a little louder, "WE ARE A FAMILY. WE SERVE EACH OTHER JOYFULLY." The "joyfully" comes out a bit like an animal growl.
The washing of feet. This was the pearl I was waiting for in my instruction to my children. Often I take little nuggets that the Lord whispers to my heart and I attempt to pass them on as a lesson. Sometimes they are well-received. Sometimes I get an eye roll. It depends on how well I make the connection and how receptive the heart is that is receiving the nugget. I waited with excitement for the opportunity to share with a child that serving one of their siblings is comparable to the washing of feet that servants had to do during biblical times. My children know the scriptures of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an act of absolute humility and service to those he loved. The Savior of the World washed His disciples feet. No servant is greater than His master. We are servants of our Lord Jesus. Let's wash each other's feet. That would be the lesson to my kids the next time they protested serving one another in a less than glorious way.
The seven-year old would provide the first opportunity. The cousins were visiting and muddy sand toys littered the lawn. As children raced into the house, she loitered outside. "Savi~will you pick up all those toys and put them in the bin?" Such a simple request. Easy service. Thirty second job. Would humility show up? Not this day. The chin thrusts forward, the hip pops to the side, and a "humph" is exhaled, "But I didn't get these toys out." She stood her ground. "I know. Please put them up anyway." She complied. Kind of. Toys are thrown loudly, violently, into the bin to demonstrate the unfairness of the task. The unwilling servant enters the home irritated. "I didn't get those toys out."
The moment I'd been waiting for. The epiphany waiting to be shared. The teenagers lazily lounged on the couch and I just knew this lesson for the little sister was going to cause them to turn their haughty eyes to me with pure adoration as they realized the great wisdom of their mother in training their sibling. I extended the nugget of wisdom to her gently, softly. "Remember when Jesus washed the disciples feet? He was literally scrubbing the grime of travel from between their dirty toes as he demonstrated his great love for them. The Savior of the World served those he would save in a yucky way. You just served Owen by cleaning up his mess. In a way, you just washed his feet."
A blank face stared back at me. Her eyes squinted and her arms raised in protest. "I didn't get those toys out. And I definitely don't want to wash Owen's feet." Her blond ponytail swished as she stormed out. (So, we obviously have other issues than teaching her to joyfully serve, but one issue at a time, Sweet Jesus. One at a time.)
I yelled into the next room. "YOU WASHED HIS FEET FIGURATIVELY, SAV. FIGURATIVELY."
She peeked around the corner and shrugged her shoulders, "I don't even know what that word means." Off she pranced, no longer irritated at Owen, but annoyed that her mother would dare try to teach her lesson and use big words like figuratively. Crash and burn.
While Savi didn't quite receive the lesson, the memory of my friend leaning over my kitchen sink, arms deep in suds, cleaning my mess, still ministers to my heart. No glory for her. No reward or payback. The "thanks" from me might even have been a little half-hearted. Yet, she scrubbed and cleaned my grime just because she's a servant of Christ at heart.
The washing of feet. How am I washing my little people's feet these days? Have I washed my husband's feet this week? Have I served a friend lately? Or my church? Do my neighbors sense that I would humbly serve them or do they see that I'm too busy to take the time? Lord, give me the grace to follow my Savior's lead and serve others joyfully and diligently.
"When He finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."