The following post was published nearly two years ago on our happy little blog by one of my heroes, Rebecca Shumaker, missionary-wife in Burkina Faso, West Africa. I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks with her family and observe their ministry in Burkina. I was then, and am always, amazed by her humility and willingness to serve those around her. This post was very encouraging to me, and I hope it will be a blessing to all those who read (or re-read) it today.
Why did my child choose this instant to throw up all over herself, her bedding, and her bedroom rug? Why didn’t she get her little seven-year-old self up and to the bathroom where clean up would have been easier? Okay, there is NEVER a convenient time to clean up a mess such as this, and she was kind of…asleep when it happened.
It was Saturday night after a hectic day. I was proud of myself for successfully getting the children to bed early so that we could all be bright and fresh for our meeting before Sunday school the next morning. I also had to finish studying the Sunday school lesson I would be teaching. I begrudgingly cleaned up my daughter’s mess instead.
I would like to tell you how loving and sweet I was, but I complained a lot, out loud, REALLY loud. “This is so gross! I don’t have time for this! I am going to be sick next! Can’t I just have a few minutes to get my lesson finished?” I made so much noise, in fact, that my husband came out of his office to see what was going on and calm me down a little. I felt only slightly guilty for interrupting his Sunday morning sermon preparations. I just didn’t think it was fair for me to have to clean up everything without someone at least hearing about it.
The next morning, my husband preached from John 13 where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He even called a church member up front, bent over, and personally washed and dried the man’s feet as an illustration. That was pretty cool especially since the dust here in Burkina Faso sometimes makes me feel like I’m living in those Bible days, but I really wasn’t expecting this familiar story to touch my heart like it did that day.
As my husband continued to preach, the Lord brought the previous night back to mind. That mess I had to clean was pretty nasty, but so were those feet the King of Glory stooped down to wash. I thought of other times, when I had cleaned messes at home, with a rotten attitude. Once, I even had this motto: “My husband is out changing the world; I am just home changing diapers.” It’s not like my children were even going to thank me. I am thankful for my four precious children. It just sometimes feels like my husband does the important stuff. The funny thing is, I had just told my children, not too long ago, that if Daddy is doing God’s work, and we do all we can to help him, then we have a part in God’s work too. How quickly we forget our own advice. All the little things I do at home, behind the scenes, to serve and take care of my family are opportunities to, “wash feet,” to humble myself and serve others. Whether my efforts are noticed or appreciated is beside the point. (Don’t get me wrong. My husband is appreciative, but I’m not going to get a standing ovation for every little thing I do.)
God also showed me opportunities He had given me in the ministry to “wash feet.” People are not going to bring their problems at the most convenient times. I might be busy, or it might be “family time,” but I need to stop and minister to their needs. It’s not just about taking care of myself and my family. Sometimes people fall into sin even though I warned them that they would get hurt. They come back and want my husband as their pastor and me, as his wife, to help them pick up the pieces. I can say, “I told you so!” or I can “wash feet,” by loving, forgiving, and helping them work through their problems.
It is always easy to help those who will return the favor, but what about those who can’t or choose not to? My husband pointed out something in his message that Sunday morning that I still can’t get over. Judas was there when Jesus washed feet. Jesus didn’t skip over him. Jesus washed Judas’s feet too, knowing that Judas had already made plans to betray him. Wow! Would I help a traitor? On many occasions, I find myself debating if I should help someone or not. My decision is often based on what they have done for me or might be able to do for me later. I am so glad this was not my Lord’s attitude when he dealt with the messiness of my sin.
I shared my thoughts with my husband and vowed to do better in the future. The Lord has given us many other opportunities to “wash feet,” since that time. People often need our time, our resources, our counsel, our friendship, or our forgiveness. Sometimes, I wash willingly; at other times, I need a reminder. “Why do we have to help his family after he did that to you?” I will ask my husband. “Wash feet, babe, wash feet!” he will reply. With that gentle reminder, I adjust my attitude and pray Jesus will help me be more like Him. He served others on this earth, and then he “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) He held nothing back, and neither should I.
Washing dusty feet and other things in Burkina Faso,