Spirituality and Prayer

Friendship and Feet

I celebrate friendship and feet today. Does this sound odd to you? As a Christian, Holy Thursday is a powerful day. It was Holy Thursday (also called Maundy Thursday) when Jesus gathered his friends, shared a meal, and then, I’m quite sure, surprised everyone. He got up from the table and began to wash everyone’s feet.

Now, even today, getting up from the dinner table and washing feet would be a surprising move. But back then, it really was! In all likelihood, feet weren’t all that clean. The water would have muddied immediately. But that didn’t stop Jesus. I wonder what it felt like to receive this particular gesture of love from a friend and teacher. I suspect there was confusion, embarrassment, and  even resistance to his tender touch. Unexpected, his action teaches and guides me today.

A compelling 8″ x 10″ photograph lives on a shelf in my office. Titled “Orphan Feet” by Joyce Roach, OP, I’ve pondered it since 1996. It’s a simple photo: the grubby feet of a young boy, dusty, wearing huaraches. Ankles are crossed in front of a brick wall, and shadows play in the sun. His feet look relaxed, and I want to know his story. It doesn’t appear that his feet would tell an easy story, yet there is an ease evident in the balance of his resting pose. I don’t need to see the eyes of this young boy … I simply ponder who he is by looking at his worn sandals and calloused toes.

I want to sit down, take his feet into my lap, wash them, and gently massage his soles and toes. I want him to know he matters–that I will listen to him. I want him to feel the gentle touch of my hands, my willingness to simply sit with him.

Now, I know this may all sound a little odd. Just as it does when we learn that Jesus washed feet after a dinner. But stop and think about it for a minute. How sensitive are you about your feet? What if a friend, lover, or even a stranger asked to gently cleanse and caress your feet? How would you respond? And, in contrast, are you willing to give a barefoot massage to someone else?

A friend inspired me on a Holy Thursday a few years back. She left her busy work day just after lunch, heading to a downtown street in Denver, Colorado. For the next few hours, she and several other women greeted men who were homeless, living on the streets. They spent time with each man, washing and massaging feet, offering a clean pair of socks when they finished. I am certain the men received much more than a new pair of socks. But more than that was the luminous light I saw in my friend’s eyes as she described her experience to me. She too was served by the humanity of each man she encountered.

Our feet reveal our vulnerability. When someone lovingly massages my feet, all I can do is simply receive the gift of touch and presence. And, when I cleanse and caress the feet of a friend, family member, or stranger, I too can only humbly serve, and share my presence.

Will you consider tenderly washing and massaging someone’s feet this week? How might this be a gift to someone else, or even to yourself?

Please come back and comment about what you discover!

Friendship and Feet Posted by PeggeBernecker at 4/9/2009 4:50 PM CDT


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