April 16, 2022

Whose Feet Would Jesus Have You Wash?

Today is Maundy Thursday. It is the day of Holy Week on which Christians commemorate Jesus celebrating Passover with his disciples, washing their feet, and giving them a “new commandment.” The word maundy actually comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning command. It is during this Passover celebration that Jesus proclaims to his disciples what to me is the very heart of Christianity. A new command I give you: Love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13: 34-35)

After spending a week in Indonesia coaching our beloved squad of 18 young missionaries, my husband and I have the opportunity to celebrate Holy Week in Southeast Asia. We were blessed to spend Palm Sunday at a Kuala Lumpur church that was planted by friends from seminary. We will spend Easter in Singapore with friends we met at a ministry event we hosted in New York only a year ago. It excites me to no end to have amazing friends sharing God’s love all over the world.

Not long ago, I could never have imagined visiting Asia, much less having the opportunity to minister here. I’m a travel junkie by nature, but I’d never had much desire to explore Asia. I wasn’t sure why, but it just held very little appeal for me. After all, there are plenty of other places on the planet to explore.

This all began to change in late 2017 while attending a ministry event where foot washing was offered. As an Anglican, I’d participated many times in foot washing services on Maundy Thursday. I’ve always found it to be a beautifully humbling experience. The service in 2017 was not a Maundy Thursday service, but just an opportunity to honor someone by washing their feet or allowing them to wash yours. The act of foot washing also symbolically represents being cleansed by Christ. Eight chairs were placed at the front of the room. Each was paired with a tub of water and towels. The idea was to pray about whether you should take one of the chairs and allow your feet to be washed or wait for someone else whose feet you felt Jesus would want you to wash. So I sat and waited. Slowly, the chairs began to fill. I didn’t feel prompted one way or the other.

Eventually, a woman went to the front and sat in one of the chairs, and I instantly knew in my heart that she was the one. At first I wasn’t sure why, but I obediently went forward and began washing her feet. As I knelt before her, I began to understand. She was a lovely, older Asian woman. I felt humbled to be honoring her in this way, but I knew God was revealing something in my heart that needed to go. Judgment. You see, when I was a teenager, I was emotionally abused over several years by a music teacher. The teacher happened to be an older Asian woman. Of course, nothing that happened to me had to do with her race, gender, or age; but the pain I experienced caused me to make a judgment against older Asian women. I felt God gently say to me, How can you minister in Asia if you’ve made a judgment against my daughters there? This was conviction, not condemnation, and I knew the foot washing needed to be an act of repentance. My heart had been hardened by the experience of abuse, and God knew the time was right for my heart to be healed.

Afterwards, what struck me was the phrase ‘How can you minister in Asia?’ Well, our main region of ministry has been Madagascar (off the coast of Africa), so why was God speaking to me about Asia? I really didn’t know. We had no plans to visit Asia, but I tucked the idea into the back of my mind.

It was crazy how quickly things unfolded. Just a few months after my foot washing encounter, my husband and I were approached about a ministry opportunity that would allow us to coach a group of young missionaries as they travel to eleven countries in eleven months. As we took steps in this direction, it was revealed that our route would require us to visit Asia twice, including a three-week training camp in Cambodia! God knew what was coming, and he knew I couldn’t go with a hardened heart.

A couple days ago, my husband said he wanted to try one of the many foot massage spas in Kuala Lumpur. I figured my feet could use a break, so I went for it. The man who registered us filled a couple of beautiful porcelain bowls with warm water and salt. He began to wash my husband’s feet, and a woman came in from the next room to wash mine. She bent down and gently scrubbed my feet with her hands. At once, the significance of the moment washed over me. Here I was, in a place I never really wanted to be, having my feet washed by an older Asian woman. And I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Of course, this woman was washing my feet because I’d simply paid for a foot massage, but it still felt beautiful and profound. I felt love for her. My fear and judgment were gone, and I was loving being in Asia.

So today I ask you: Whose feet would Jesus have you wash? Is there hardness in your heart that he wants to address? Take some time this Holy Week to ponder what it means to step into forgiveness and truly love one another. You may be surprised what he shows you. I know I was!

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