Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 13:14 NIV
“I doubt she will work with you this morning. She refuses to get out of bed.”
80-something, independent-minded, and angry-at-being-in-the-hospital, she wasn’t going to budge out of her bed for anybody, and hadn’t for days.
Which is why they called me in.
She had to budge, move her arms and legs, get on her feet again, breathe deeply of life and start to move forward from the sickness that had landed her here. To not move was a slow prescription toward death.
All she wanted was to go home.
“I don’t want to get up. Just let me go home and I’ll be fine. I don’t need you telling me what to do.”
A bright sunny day lay just beyond the closed shades of her darkened room.
“I understand how you must be feeling, what can I do to help you feel better?”
“Just leave me alone.”
“I have an idea, you must be feeling sore from lying in bed so long, if you sit up I’ll massage your back for you.”
The defiance in her eyes softened. “Oh, alright, I suppose that would be nice.”
I gently washed her back and massaged her frail frame with lotion.
“I’ve got this nice chair set up and I’m sure it will feel good to be in a different position for a few minutes. We can move here and I’ll fill this bucket with warm water so you can soak your feet.”
More softening of the defiance.
Her feet were cold. They also gave evidence to how defiantly independent she was.
As her abandoned feet soaked in the warm sudsy water, she began to speak of her life. Farm girl, ranch wife, self-sufficient widow.
I sat down on the floor and began to gently scrub away the years of the lonely paths of self-sufficiency she had walked.
She looked down at me in embarrassment, and said, “I’m sorry they are so bad, I can’t reach them anymore.”
“I know, and you’ve always been the one to do for yourself and others, so it’s time for someone to do something for you for a change.”
“This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” she said, trying to hide the glistening in the corner of her eyes.
“It’s my honor.”
I scrubbed around her crooked toes and massaged lotion into the cracks of her heels.
The door opened and an astonished nurse’s face peered in.
The woman who would never get up . . . was up. She had walked, was washing up, changing clothes, and . . . smiling.
“How did you get her to do that?” she asked me later at the nurse’s station.
“I just washed her feet.”
It worked every single day, with every single patient I saw in my work as an occupational therapist.
He washed the feet of his disciples and even his enemy, the man who would betray him.
It was an act of love to a person with perhaps the ugliest feet ever, the man who was the most un-loveable of them all.
LOVE washes the unwashed feet.