My friend and I made preparations to wash feet. Everyone from our church was invited to come. No one knew what we were doing. We filled four or five water basins and put them strategically around the room. Beside each basin was a hand towel to dry the feet after washing them. On the screen were the words of Jesus to his disciples- as I have done for you, now you must do.
We didn’t give anyone any instructions. This was going to be a demonstration in humble service. We were simply going to take the water basins and begin washing the feet of those who were there. So we began. As we washed the feet of two or three people something remarkable began to happen. Those whose feet we had already washed stood up, took the extra basins of water, and began to wash the feet of others as well. Upon seeing this I set my basin down and took a seat to observe what was happening.
That is when I was completely caught off guard.
My wife and my good friend both came over to me and knelt down. They took my dirty sandals off and began to wash my feet. Unexpected emotions began to surface as tears filled my eyes. I was so humbled to be served in such an intimate way by those I love dearly. It was truly an honor.
But despite my feelings of appreciation I couldn’t fight the most unexpected emotion that crept into this holy service. My pride.
Instead of savoring the joy of those who were serving…all I could think was: I am capable of washing my own feet. I don’t need anyone going out of his or her way to wash my feet. They don’t need to imposition themselves on my behalf.
The truth is that it was hard to be served.
These same feelings came rushing back to me over the last couple of weeks, as I was the recipient of two incredible “random acts of kindness.” Both of the acts left me speechless and profoundly appreciative of how kind and selfless people can be…but they also left me struggling with being served by another person.
I started asking my friends, “Is it easier for you to serve someone else, or to be served?” The answers were shocking to me. Although my impromptu poll was far from scientific…the people I asked stated unanimously that they have a much easier time serving others than being served.
Beyond the straw polls and evidenced through many of my own personal anecdotes of wanting to serve others in need, I have found that people resist being served because they do not want to “inconvenience” others.
Why is that?
Have we been so molded and shaped into a people who believe we need to “pull up our bootstraps” and get the work done by ourselves that we fight being served?
Have we developed a wild sense of independence and pride that keeps good-hearted servants at arm’s length so they can’t help us?
Have we become so insulated and isolated from people…for fear of getting hurt or owing someone something…that we do not give others the opportunity to give selflessly without them not expecting anything in return?
I know this is a broad stroke of the brush…but I have come to the conclusion that we do not have a “serving” problem as much as we have a “reluctance to be served” problem.
Too many times we make the moment about ourselves, our pride, and how capable we are of doing things on our own…that we completely miss the greater point. It isn’t about people seeing our deficiency, our inadequacy, or our inability to do things for ourselves…it is about the great joy others take in serving us. And when we deprive others the opportunity to serve us…we deprive them of the profound joy of serving Christ.
That is the lesson I learned while my feet were being washed. As I watched my wife and good friend each wash one of my feet, I didn’t see them grumbling. They weren’t thinking less of me. And even though they could have made some snide comments about the smell and unkemptness of my feet, I didn’t even hear a grunt from them. Instead…I saw something else displayed in them. They thoroughly washed and dried my feet with as much joy as if they were serving Jesus Christ himself.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord.” But also ready yourself to be served when others want to serve you.