My mother -in-law is very ill. A recent return of gall bladder cancer has found its way to her liver. Armed with a combination of powerful drugs for weekly chemotherapy treatments, she is fighting the battle of her life while those of us who love her stand by, do what we can do, and watch the combination of the treatment, her age, and chemo take her to the point where she cannot stand without our assistance, let alone take care of herself. She requires our help to stand, to bathe, to take her medication. She cannot cook for herself, dress herself, or walk six feet alone to grab the remote for the television. Movements we take for granted and perform in an instant now require time, thought, the assistance of a family member, and more energy than she often has to offer.
As I was sitting on the floor next to her last night and placing her feet into a basin of water to bathe them, I thought of the story in John 13 in which Jesus bathes the feet of his disciples.
“After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
Then cometh he to Simon Peter, and Peter saith unto him, Lord dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” (John 13; 5-7)
How right he was. I’m sure Simon Peter was appalled to have the King of Kings washing his feet, a job reserved for servents. Likewise, my mother-in-law has shared with me how embarrassing it is for her to require the asssistance that she needs from me to perform her daily tasks. Yet, what a gift she gives me.
Through all the sleepless hours, through the extra work it takes to help her, through the strain on my own muscles it takes to lift her from her bed, I have received such blessing. I am learning that there is nothing more nurturing to our own souls than to wash the feet of another. The closeness that comes from intimately caring for someone so ill is beyond words and beyond measure. Even in my most bone- tired hours, I often look at her and feel blessed that she trusts me to care for her. I know now that in that one small act, Jesus taught an enormous lesson. Washing feet. There is no greater gift.