The inspiration for my post began with Carol Howard Merritt’s recent post “Love and Lent: How my faith was formed in the midst of betrayal.” I highly recommend that everyone read that–whether you continue with my post or not. Go ahead: I’ll wait…
- My mother paces the kitchen a few more times. Instead of grabbing the phone again, she picks up a big basin and places our plushest guest towels inside of it. Then she yells out to the quiet house, “Car-ol! Let’s go!”
- My mother takes the basin, walks into her friend’s kitchen, and fills it with warm water. She carries it to Margaret’s feet, taking off Margaret’s shoes, she cradles her soles as if they are the most precious things in the world. Without a word, mom puts them in the water and washes them.
- Margaret begins to cry and it doesn’t take long before the tears smear all of our faces. Mom takes Margaret’s feet out and dries them on the soft towels. Throughout the entire ritual, we don’t talk, but we know what’s being said. I even understand the depth of it, at my young age. Margaret is about to face some of the worst public betrayal, as people began to pick apart the indiscretions of her husband.
- Mom wanted Margaret to know one thing in the midst of it. Margaret would be cherished, even to the end of her toes.
38 As they traveled, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words.
32 When Mary got to Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.”
3 Mary brought a pound of costly ointment, pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. The house was full of the scent of the ointment.
3 Jesus—knowing that God had put all things into his own hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God—4 rose from the table, took off his clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 He then poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and dry them with the towel that was around his waist.
So here we are, four weeks into the season of Lent. Lent: the time in the church year when we are called on to walk with Jesus on his road from Galilee to Jerusalem–to see him experience the time of trial, his humiliation, his execution. Even while trying to walk that walk, we know that in the end Jesus will triumph over death in the Resurrection.
But today, thanks in part to Carol’s remarkable story, I find myself thinking not of walking, but of being at the feet.
My beloved spouse Melinda has bad feet. In her job, she calls on customers in manufacturing plants; typically these are cold, concrete-floored facilities. When her day is over, there is nothing she loves more than to have her feet rubbed. Several times a week, I try to save up enough energy from my own day so that I can slather her feet with cream or lotion (“ointment”) and rub them until she can relax and go to sleep more comfortable, so that she can sleep without getting foot cramps during the night. These are intimate moments, most often silent ones, where the only thing that matters to me is trying to make her feel better.
At the end, Jesus washed the feet of his most intimate followers–despite the protestations of Peter–in a demonstration of one of the most important messages of the bible, that of hospitality. This is not only intimate, but it is a way of elevating something unclean to an elegant sign of God’s love. Jesus’ feet were washed by Mary; he, in turn, washed the feet of his friends.
But what happened to Jesus’ male friends after his death? We know that at the very least Mary of Magdala (and maybe other women) went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Dead bodies were also considered to be unclean, so the preparation for burial was a task performed only by women. Peter and the other disciple came to the tomb after Mary to see that the tomb was indeed empty, but then they left. Mary, who had gone to Jesus to perform an intimate-yet-unclean duty, was the one who then had an intimate post-death, pre-Resurrection encounter with Jesus.
While there are certainly many acts in the bible and now of men who act in faith, today I am inspired by the stories of the Marys as well as the story of Carol’s mother and many other women–women who go about their daily duties–performing their intimate, unclean acts–and I am grateful for their examples.
Bible verses from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality.
This post is part of this month’s synchroblog “All about Eve.” Here’s a list of all the posts:
- Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
- Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
- Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
- Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
- Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
- Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
- Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
- Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
- kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
- Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
- Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
- Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
- Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
- Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
- Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
- Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love
- K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
- Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
- Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor