It happened several weeks after our wedding day. My husband and I were enjoying a quiet evening in our first apartment. I really don’t remember how it all began; I do remember that all of a sudden he was in front of me with a basin full of water, a wash rag, and a towel. I was confused. “I’m going to wash your feet, “he said. That is exactly what he did.
My husband and I have now been married ten years. The funny thing is that I do not remember any details from that experience. I recall it was sweet, and very idyllic. He more than likely told me that he loved me, and that he wanted to serve me throughout our lives together. What is even funnier about this memory is that as thoughtful as the gesture was, my husband does not remember it at all.
I would like to share another memory- one that is much stronger in both of our hearts and minds. This memory came almost exactly a year later. It began with an exclamation of, “Oh, Jimmy! My water just broke!” Then came many prayers, and many moments of excited and harsh pain. As with most things in the life of a marriage, there is always the element of surprise. The birth of our first child came via cesarean section- not what we were expecting. None the less, everyone was happy and healthy.
The day after the surgery, I desperately wanted to feel like myself again. This meant I needed to take a real shower. For any woman who has had a C-section, you know first-hand how insurmountable this task is. You have just had your abdominal muscles cut into- you can barely sit up, let alone walk across the hospital room to the bathroom. Every single movement your body makes produces pain because of the incision in your core. For example, even raising your arms above your head to wash your hair hurts. Forget about bending over to scrub your feet!
With the aid of my husband holding my body, I slowly wobbled/limped to the bathroom. I tried prepping for the shower, and could not do it. Jimmy must have seen the concern in my eyes. I could not do anything to help myself, and I was becoming quite weak in the process. That is when he just took over.
With soap and a wash rag in hand, Jimmy very gently and carefully began to wash my body down. I was embarrassed and taken aback. I remember thinking, “Please wash and don’t look or smell!” My body was ugly. I was still large and bloated from pregnancy. There was a mixture of dried up blood and anti-septic solution from the surgery on my abdominal area. This paired wonderfully with my huge stretch marks and enlarged veins. The staples sticking out of my gut added to the lovely effect. I was smelly from sweating through 21 hours of intense labor. I had not brushed my teeth in over a day. Ah, yes. A true picture of beauty! I was concerned with what my husband was thinking. After all, only a year before he had married a strong, skinny woman without stretch marks.
During the course of the shower, it did not take me long to see that Jimmy had little concern over the unattractiveness of my appearance. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He had a look on his face that I will never forget; a look that left an imprint on my soul. It was similar to the look he had in his eyes on our wedding day. It was the look of love.
I cannot remember how long it was after that time that Jimmy told me something that made that moment even more poignant. He told me that he loved me more in that moment of my “ugliness” than on the day of our wedding. That hit me hard.
I have been told that in the time of Jesus, the washing of feet was an important job for the servants to perform on guests upon entrance into a home. Most traveling was done by foot. Roads were full of all kinds of dirty substances from mud to animal feces. It was a gesture of practicality and concern to ensure that your guests had clean feet. During the last supper, John’s gospel tells us that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. A job that was meant only for the servants was carried out by our Divine Savior. What is Jesus trying to tell us?
“Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no masters are greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice!” John 13:12-17
Jesus truly set an amazing, counter cultural example in the act of stooping down to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. He showed us that it is only in serving others with a humble spirit that we will find true joy. Joy comes from love. Love is the act of choosing to serve.
When my husband washed my feet in the early weeks of our marriage, I could have easily said that would be a moment of great love for each other. It was romantic, thoughtful and sweet. I bet I smelled good. My feet were not swollen and dirty. My toe nails were still nicely manicured from our wedding day. There could have even been music playing in the back ground. Sounds like a movie scene? So why is it that the time he spent washing my ugly body after child-birth made him feel more love for me, than the time he washed my beautiful feet?
Fast forward ten years and five children (and c-sections!) later. What Jimmy did when he washed my feet was truly a precursor to how he would serve me and wash my feet every single day of our marriage. He “washes my feet” when he works hard all day at his job in order to provide a living for our family. He “washes my feet” when he lets me sleep longer in the morning than he does. He “washes my feet” when he takes over dinner when I am sometimes too exhausted to think at the end of the day. I could give many, many more examples of the acts of service shown by my husband. And you know the funny thing about it? I somehow sense that every time he “washes my feet” that we become more deeply united in love.
Thank you Jimmy for living out the words of Christ in our marriage. Thank you Jesus for giving us those words the night before you died.