If we can welcome God into anything at all, can we even ask him into mundane things like bathing and showering? I believe we can. It’s not that long since Maundy Thursday, when we remember Jesus washing the Disciples’ feet. Many churches and Christian bodies choose to commemorate this act of love by having the priests or ministers do the same for members of their congregation or the local community. But this act of Jesus, done on the same night as those feet would, in almost all cases, run away and even betray him, is also an act of cleansing and of grace.
Jesus knew what was going to happen. He had tried to explain it many times to his followers. Still he chose to symbolically show this band of men that his servant heart could reach down even to touch and minister to their dusty smelly feet, and if that was possible, then maybe their Lord and ours might even condescend willingly to cleanse our dirty but contrite souls.
Washing for me has been an exhausting and difficult business since I got ill over twenty years ago. I’ve not been able to bathe myself or wash my own hair since my last relapse over two years ago, and so I have to rely on my husband to do it for me. We have a system that’s working okay, and a bath cushion from social services that can lift me in and out when I am too weak to even do that. It is hard to have no independence in any area, but this one is particularly galling.
I used to enjoy a long hot bubble bath, or, back when I could stand for long enough (before I was ill) an invigorating power shower. I would love to be able to do those things again, unaided, and feel really clean and fresh every day. If I could, I don’t think it would be something I’d ever take for granted, much as anyone who has had to live without running water could also make gratitude a great part of their ablutions.
As it is, love washes me. Love patiently helps me in and out, washes me gently, dries me with care. I am blessed to have someone love me in this helpless state, and to do so without any hint of pity. Vulnerability and dependence both generate a deep humility and gratitude. Every time, it reminds me of the kind of love that God administers to us by his grace and I am so thankful. Yes, it is difficult, and yes, I pray beforehand that we will be helped, because it is so exhausting and I always feel nauseated by the physical effort and hot water, but because each time an uncomplaining kindness is extended to me, this too is made an encounter with our loving God.
Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay