On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

From abcnews.go.com

From abcnews.go.com

It takes humility to serve others, but sometimes it takes even more humility to allow others to serve you. Pope Francis created quite a stir during Holy Week when he celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison and washed the feet of a dozen inmates. Most of the media coverage focused on the break from the tradition of washing the feet of the cardinals and on the propriety (or impropriety) of including women in the ritual. Michael Sean Winters, however, wrote about the symbolism of the act in his article titled “Pope Francis & the Washing of Feet” in the April 1 issue of National Catholic Reporter. 

 “In the washing of the feet, we see Jesus entering into a parable, teaching his disciples by example what it means to be the greatest by becoming the least, inverting the normal understandings of power and deference, making service the measure of greatness and linking the acceptance of grace to the purification of one’s life. All this could be written about or spoken of, but Jesus simply did it.”

I’m a recovering co-dependent with a life-long history of people pleasing, so I have no problem serving others. I was also the primary caregiver for both my aging parents for many years, so I knew about the humility it takes to meet some of the very basic needs of others. However, I came face to face with the difficulty accepting grace, of allowing others to serve me, a few years ago at a retreat for the counseling ministry in our church.

That log I'm walking on is about 20 feet in the air.

That log I’m walking on is about 20 feet in the air.

A group of professional and lay counselors withdrew from the world for a weekend to refresh and recharge for the demanding work of helping the people who came to us with their hurts and hang ups. We spent time in a series of rope challenges that required us to stretch ourselves physically and to trust those who were holding the ropes. We spent time in teaching sessions and in small groups where we trusted others with our thoughts and feelings. And we spent time in worship. The high point came on Sunday morning in a casual gathering. We praised and worshipped and gathered around the Lord’s table – and then we washed each others’ feet.

Participation in the foot washing was optional, but I looked forward to it. I expected to serve either my husband or one of my close friends by humbling myself at their feet. I could do that. But that’s not exactly how it happened. One of the professional counselors who was in charge of my breakout group sat beside me during the service. As soon as the pastor gave the instructions and invited us to move into the final act of worship, she turned to me.

“Linda, may I wash your feet?”

Wait a minute. This wasn’t what I expected. But I couldn’t gracefully refuse.

“Yes. Thank you.”

She took my hand and led me to one of several washing stations. She seated me in the chair and knelt at my feet. As she rolled up the legs of my jeans and unlaced my shoes, she looked into my eyes and began to talk. I don’t remember the exact words, but they were words of affirmation, about me as a person, as a counselor, as a caregiver. And the tears came.

“This is hard for you, isn’t it,” she said.

“Yes, I feel like Peter when Jesus washed his feet.”

She smiled knowingly as she watched the protective walls I had spent years constructing begin to weaken.

I learned a lot about humility that day. I learned that, in the same way it takes humility to accept the grace of salvation, it takes humility to accept the grace of service from a friend or loved one. I also learned that when serving another, it’s important to make sure they know how much you care about them as a person.

I’m not a Catholic, so I don’t understand a lot of the rituals of the Church, but I understand the humility it requires for one of the most powerful men on earth to kneel at the feet of a dozen convicted criminals. Thank you, Pope Francis, for your example. May we have the humility and grace to follow it. And may we have enough love for those we serve to make acceptance easier.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

John 13:6-8




Comments on: "The Humility and Grace of Foot Washing | by Linda Brendle" (11)

  1. This totally made me cry, and I’m still not sure why. It just moved me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amber, I didn’t mean to make you cry, but I’m glad you were touched. A writer is always happy to get a reaction. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Totally loved that Francis did this, and several other gestures he’s made so far. Reminds me of when we did a foot washing for a bunch of youth at camp. Man, that was disgusting.

    • Yeah, he’s off to a good start. And yeah, a teenager who hasn’t changed his socks in a week would have spoiled the moment for me,too.

  3. Pope Francis seems to be a person who truly gets what it means to be a servant leader.

  4. Good on him. An honourable act and in accordance with his wishes, with the persona that he has put himself forward as – humility and service.

  5. Linda you and I could be sisters. I too love to take care of people and it is hard for me to accept someone coming in to care for me. I remember being mad when I was in school and they told us about Mary and MArtha and Mary being the good sister. I guess it comes from always working to take care of my little sisters when I was young. It is still hard for me but when it happens the feeling of love that comes over me is almost more than I can express. I loved this post. I am smiling. Blessings Liz

    • Liz, I don’t have any sisters, so I’m glad to have you a a sister in Christ. I look forward to sharing all our stories when we meet one day. Until then, I’m glad we can make each other smile.
      Blessings right back at ya

  6. […] The Humility and Grace of Foot Washing | by Linda Brendle (lifeaftercaregiving.wordpress.com) […]

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