So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."
And suddenly, through the gift of imaginative prayer, I was there. Still sitting in my den, I stepped into the very room where Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Passover Feast during The Last Supper.
If you're not familiar with imaginative prayer, it is a method of prayer that involves using our God-given imaginations to actually enter into Scripture—and in doing so, we encounter the Lord in a unique and personal way. Also referred to as Ignatian Contemplation, it allows us to grow in relationship with our Lord as the Holy Spirit brings to life something the Lord wants to tell us in that very moment.
As David L Fleming, SJ says in What is Ignatian Spirituality?
"It allows the person of Christ to penetrate into places that the intellect does not touch. It brings Jesus into our hearts... Imaginative prayer makes the Jesus of the Gospels our Jesus."
(If interested, you can read more about imaginative prayer HERE or HERE.)
So there I was, seated at the table with Jesus and all of the disciples. We were eating. Drinking. Talking. Enjoying one another's company. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Jesus quietly stood up. I thought nothing of it until I realized He was taking off some of His outer layers of clothing. I watched as He then picked up a towel and a basin of water and walked towards the disciple seated next to me. By this point the entire room had quieted. Our eyes all fixed on Jesus—both our friend, and the Man we'd come to know as our Lord. And as we watched, Jesus began to wash and dry the feet of one of our fellow disciples. You could have heard a pin drop.
What is going on here? Why is Jesus doing this?
As He finished drying the feet of the disciple next to me, Jesus turned to face me, and our eyes met. His were filled with Love. Mine with bewilderment. And before I realized what was happening He stood and stepped towards me. With sudden and unexpected alarm, I realized He intended to wash my feet as well. And as He slowly knelt before me, every inch of me silently protested…
This is absolutely not right. I can not let Him do this.
With no doubt, I should be washing His feet instead. I need to find another towel.
I feel so embarrassed. I have no idea when I last had a pedicure. There's no way I can let Him see and touch my feet as they are.
I can just wash my own feet. Really, I can take care of this myself, Jesus.
There's so much that still needs to be done in the kitchen. I'm positive there's not time for me to just sit here.
Oh no. Is everyone going to be looking at me? This feels too vulnerable. Too tender. Too intimate.
I know I don't I deserve this level of attention and pampering from Jesus.
How can I stop this?
Jesus tentatively placed His hand on the top of my foot and looked up at me, pausing, an unspoken question on His face. And as He looked deep into my eyes, I realized each of my objections were written plainly across my face, and that all of my feelings—my discomfort and anxiety, my sense of shame and unworthiness—lay bare before Him.
He knew of my protests. Of all my insecurities.
I knew that if I only spoke the word “No,” He would release my foot. That He would never push His way on me.
I sat frozen, barely breathing, our eyes locked. And in this very moment, with great tenderness in His voice, He spoke:
Jen, I'd like to wash your feet.
I know you feel ashamed. Embarrassed. Unworthy.
I know you’d rather make yourself pretty, fix yourself up, before I see you.
I know me, serving you in this manner, unhinges the hierarchy around which you’ve built your entire world—the one that says I’m up here and you’re down there.
I know being touched in this way removes your sense of control.
I know it completely disarms you; it makes you feel vulnerable.
I know all of this. But Jen, I'm still here.
Don’t let those things be the reason you push Me away. Don't let them be the reason you say no.
Jen, may I wash your feet?
I’ve been sitting with this scene for almost two full days. A scene that, until now, I've always read as an uninvolved bystander, interpreting it only as a lesson on how Jesus wants us to live, how He wants us to serve others. But picturing myself in the room with Jesus and the disciples, imagining Jesus asking to wash my feet... well it's clear this passage carries so much more.
It is the night before Jesus is put to death. He's well aware that those He loves most will soon witness the unspeakable horror and tragedy of His own crucifixion. He knows His disciples' hearts are about to be crushed, and their fears will soar. And in this moment, His very intentional response is to go to each one of them separately and tenderly touch them. To serve them each, personally. And to love them each, individually.
As I hold this scene in my head, Jesus is still kneeling before me, His hand resting gently on my foot, His gaze locked on mine. He knows every reason I want to say no. Every reason I'm tempted to hide. Yet still, He wants only to touch me. To serve me. To love me. And He's waiting patiently for my answer.
He's kneeling before you as well. The only question is how will we all respond?
I'm praying now that our Lord helps us all to identify the pieces of our hearts still resisting His Love. And that He gives us the grace to tell Him yes without any hesitation.
And as always, I'm praying God breathes life into these words.
Blessed by these words?
And feel free to share, so you can bless others.
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