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the dirty work of love

On the night that Jesus was arrested, he had one last object lesson. Being who he was, who he claimed to be, he could have easily had a servant or any one of the disciples do the menial task of wiping down the dirty feet of men who spent most of their days walking the dusty Palestinian roads. Instead, he disrobed, knelt down and cleaned the feet of his followers. He told them that this is what love is, that they must do what he has just done to them for others. 

I’ve always heard and taught this story as being about service. It certainly is that. But it’s not just that. It is a story about intimacy. Jesus takes a submissive position before his male followers and holds their feet in an intimate way. Perhaps to a Jewish audience, it may have reminded them of Ruth lying at the (ahem) “feet” of Boaz. I don’t mean this to sound adolescent, but love touches us in our dirty places. After all, what is the act of making love if not the embrace of and acceptance of another as they are. 

My left foot is pretty normal by the low standard to which feet are held. My right foot on the other hand is a mess. It is rough and gnarly. My younger sister used to refer to it as my alien foot. I hide it when I can. I would feel incredibly exposed if someone touched that foot. I imagine that Jesus would have gravitated toward my right foot. 

For so long I have tried to project an image. It is an irreverent image, but it is irreverence that I then made the wisdom beneath seem all the more profound. The way that people perceive me has been honed over years and finely choreographed. Now that the facade is coming down, my natural tendency is to hide from the world. But there are those in my life who have loved me through this process. They have touched the mess of my life and, in some small measure, their love has cleaned the dirt from the sweaty foot that is my existence. (I, dear friends, am no poet). They have let the mess of my life, both the figurative and literal mess, invade their lives and, in some small measure, the passive act of being loved, warts and all, has been purifying.

So to those who have  eaten with me, cried with me, talked me off the ledge, driven me to places I needed to go, drank with me, laughed with me, sang with me, endured my messiness, told me to breathe, called me a whore, shared their stories with me, nagged me, called me, texted me, tweeted me, prayed with and for me… thank you for doing the dirty work of love. 

About derricklweston

Father of two. I co-host God Complex Radio, a show highlighting progressive voices in the faith community. (godcomplexradio.com) I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. I like lots of stuff. Sometimes I write about that stuff.


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