I have been a Christian for decades. Literally, decades. Over those many years I have read the Bible over a couple of times – not cover-to-cover kind of reading because that would be just too overwhelming. But in the course of my lifetime, I have read it all, especially the New Testament. So until the last few years, the Bible was not the place for me to find fresh perspective. The stories were all familiar and, honestly, old news.
Lately, maybe because of the luxury of time now, I have been sitting with these ancient stories. Just sitting with them. Not expecting anything more than a new knowledge of the old familiar.
But every once in awhile, when I read or pray or drive in the car, dots get connected, thoughts jive together and start to make sense – between scriptures, between sermon notes, between rambling prayers and anonymous quotations.
Seemingly unrelated points of interest come together in the most amazing ways, bringing on new insight, and deeper faith. Somehow, a fresh path comes out of fragments of thoughts.
It happened again this week.
It started with this familiar passage in Scripture…
For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. I will tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brethren of mine, you did for me. ~Matthew 25.35-36,40
Remember that this Scripture started with Jesus saying those he knew are his sheep, and those he didn’t know are the goats. Sheep and goats. Separated out. Sheep get to go to his pasture; goats got to go to an ugly place. This could not be more direct. Whenever you do good, you do good to Jesus, and he knows you because of that good you do.
I took this story to heart. Or I thought I did. But this morning my mind took one of those shifts in perspective, the kind that takes you to your knees, in regret or thankfulness or wonder.
I made the realization that I’ve been a goat in ‘sheep’s clothing’ all along.
As a sheep, I am without any doubt better than any of those lousy, selfish goats. Oh yes I am. ‘Cause I rock this feet washing thing. Oh yes I do. No question about it. Yup.
That’s me. That’s what pride looks like. Such a sweet little sheepie. Baa!
Yeah. Not good. Very goat-like.
Trust me, I was not thanking God for this epiphany. At least not until I had accepted his forgiveness for a heart issue that had put me in such an ugly place (not the first time, and certainly not the last!). Did it put me in the goat pen? Who knows. I won’t argue theology here, but I will praise God for giving me the Holy Spirit to knock some sense into me.
This FRESH outlook didn’t happen through my own feeble thinking. Pride prevents any connection of the dots with enough impact to bring on the needed explosion of change.
Author Macrina Wiederkehr, writes beautiful word pictures, in prose and poetry, about the seasons in a life in Christ. In her book Seasons of Your Heart, is a poem entitled ‘God in an Apron’ which became the catalyst that literally pushed me out of my complacent sheep-pride.
Then he handed me the towel and said,
‘As I have done, so you must do.’
Learn to bow. Learn to kneel.
Let your tenderness encircle
everyone you meet.
Wash their feet.
Not because you have to,
because you want to.
‘There are so many feet to wash,’
I keep saying.
‘No,’ I hear God’s voice
resounding through the years.
‘There are only my feet.
What you do for them
You do for me.’
There are only my feet.
The whole idea of foot washing became FRESH for me. It suddenly took on a new meaning, a new reason to do it, a new meaning to want to do it. It was no longer someone’s dirty feet I was washing. No longer a need that caused irritation rather than humble bowing and kneeling.
This FRESH thinking taught me that there are no feet but those that belong to Jesus. The least of these are his – and him – all wrapped together in his grace.
I am thankful for this FRESH look at such a familiar Bible story. I am thankful because for the first time I am earnestly praying for feet to wash, not for prideful advancement or notice, but because Jesus is there, in the need, in the dirty feet that need washing.
And I really want to be where Jesus is.
May I wash your feet?