Washed up

Joey’s 21 now and we still help him take baths.

He doesn’t have the fine motor dexterity to manage the balance of hot and cold water. He could easily burn himself.

He can have seizures and take falls.

On a less dire note, he thinks nothing of making messes. So he wouldn’t turn the water off on his own once the tub filled, and would simply slosh lots of water here and there, probably while chuckling in great joy.

For my part, it is one of the care giving chores at which I chafe. It has to happen right in the middle of each evening. It is one of the reasons that Melissa and I can’t just “go out” on a whim, and it has to be factored into invitations to have others over or to go out at all.

Meanwhile, it’s Maundy Thursday on the Christian calendar, when we remember the Last Supper and hear about how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

Churches reenact the foot washing, with mixed results. In most places, its an uncomfortable symbolic thingie. Most of us don’t want to come up and take off our shoes and socks in a public setting, especially after a day at work. We’re instinctively uncomfortable with letting someone who is not a podiatrist expose and play with our piggies. Some churches recruit a couple of victims in advance, but more often there’s an invitation made to the congregation during the service and there’s lots of uncomfortable silence and fidgeting until someone comes up and gets it over with.

That’s how I always experienced foot washing, until one day the what Jesus did and what we do with Joey bumped into each other:

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)

What Jesus did was real. Foot washing wasn’t just a symbol in those days, when people walked on dirt roads in sandals. It was real hygiene and real hospitality. It was a menial chore, too – people of importance had servants to do it – but Jesus did it himself and called down a blessing upon those who would do likewise.

Much of care giving is foot washing. Not literal scrubbing of heels, arches and toes, or symbolic piety, but stinky work which, all things considered, most of us would rather not do.

In understanding what Jesus did, there was less inner resistance to helping Joey bathe. Some peace and joy in it, sometimes. Although I (Tim) still wish he would wait for halftime when there’s a game on.

I still have much to learn and do.

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