Thursday, July 29, 2010


Credit for post suggestion goes to Cristen Horn whose origins are unknown.

There is no occasion I cherish more in life than that which is inexplicably bound by awkwardness. Just like a good rug can tie a room together, if awkwardness defines the occasion my eyes are fully open and I feel alive. The chaos and inescapably of a good wholesome awkward situation seems more lifelike than a formal ceremony or a birthday song for a toddler.

Foot-washing, outside of it's biblical context, is one of those rousing occasions which breeds the awkwardness I always seek to drink deeply from.

So naturally, if there is a foot-washing I catch wind of, I am there. Like the young adult who will travel to great lengths anytime their favorite evangelist is in state, or the 16 year old apostolic girl who secretly sneaks into the newest Twilight movie out in theaters for her "Edward fix," I get my awkward fix amidst buckets of hot water, scraggly towels, gender-segregated rooms and a whole lot of Man-ankle goodness.

One time someone asked me if God had a sense of humor, and upon deep reflection, I replied "yes" and pointed to his command for foot-washing as an example.

Because here's the deal:

There was a custom in Jesus' time wherein foot-washing by the servant was quite the commonplace. Feet had to be washed because feet got dirty because people walked with scandals or barefoot through the dirty streets. The people of Jesus' day didn't have the luxury to be able to take off their shoes the moment they walked into someone's door as to leave the dirt at the entrance. That was impossible. So the next best alternative was a good old-fashioned foot washing. Everyone knew what it was; even if you weren't religious.

So then Jesus throws everyone off by washing all his disciple's feet. He became the servant instead of the one looked up to. He leads them down instead of up ( i could feel all mushy inside if i keep on thinking about it).....

And the disciples are all like "Jesus, no!"

And Jesus is like "jokes on you kids....if you thought you knew what following me was all about, think again. Learn to get embarrassed for my sake."

And the disciples, at least as they are portrayed in Mark are genuinely ticked. They thought it was all about the up and up and Jesus is like, it's all about getting on your knees and washing stinky, grimy feet that smell bad.

but then here is the best part.....he kind of words his commands oddly enough to where you can't tell that when he tells the disciples to wash feet, he is talking to them alone or to everyone who reads scripture....

And that's the funny part....Because I can almost envision Jesus at this moment thinking 2000 years into the future when no one else in the Western World will be washing feet, but Christians themselves and he's just got this smirk on his face.....

Because what made sense as a symbolic act in Jesus' culture (foot-washing) had somehow been elevated to being a universal law separated completely from it's actual cultural significance.

But I am getting to far ahead of myself. The humor regarding us and foot-washing is how we view it. Do we seek the act as humiliating (because that was the point of it)? Well I guess if I had to do a foot washing in the public for all to see without expectation that it will be done back to me, then I guess foot washing serves it's purpose.

But this is where it starts to get comical....the way we set up foot-washing is more of the childhood notion "I'll do it if you do it."  In other words, no kid smokes his first joint or drinks his first beer alone. He commits his sin hand-in-hand with his brother as they take the plunge together. Similarly, we all only only commit to get on our knees and wash feet when we know that someone else will be doing it to us. Once again we are falling away from  "those who are last will be first" and running ourselves right back into a "tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye" Christianity.

So then there we are, as a church fulfilling the literal command to wash feet (and thus we are obeying God's word), but yet, in our commitment have severed ourselves from it having any cultural significance, and further have lost the principle behind the servitude because we are all doing it to one another.....

I can't help but get this image in my mind, where i sat in my classroom in fourth grade on the first day of class and the teacher had instructed us children to introduce ourselves to each child and give them two complements in the process. And the room quickly became filled with mummers of how nice someone's glasses were or how nice of a smile someone else had. And i can explicitly remember, "is this real?" Sure the complements were being given, and we were obeying the teacher but the actual sincerity was completely empty. I for one couldn't believe one single complement that came my way, and I didn't believe anything I said to others.

I don't think foot-washing is so empty in it's action whatsoever, and I do really struggle with the biblical command of foot-washing's place within our own culture, but we must ask if the foot-washing we partake in is what Jesus had in mind when he made the command? I honestly don't know, because i think there is a good explanation either way.

Get Serious
Okay, enough with the serious stuff....let's talk about the awkwardness.....

We all hate our feet for it is probably the least attractive part of our body (at least for men).....And when we hear about foot-washing, I don't cringe in thinking I have to touch someone's feet, but rather someone else will be staring right at my feet and it's own discrepancies. I'd prefer to wash the feet of 500 men before letting my monstrosity of a foot out to be seen. So I hurry home at such announcements and cover various foot errors with band-aids and pray that they don't fall off in the water....

And then what about how all the females go off in a different room from all the boys who may be tempted to stare at ankle or have a secret foot fetish. but does anyone else question that once the women go into their secret room they all just have a giant party and pretend like the foot washing is happening? Because we know that if men are grossed out by feet, women most likely vomit at their appearance? I mean the pastor doesn't go in the room so he can never know for sure what is going on....So if i am a lady and I have to do foot-washing, what makes more sense? DO the foot-washing and have a room filled with a lot of gagging at being too grossed out in the process or TELL people you did foot washing and arrange for a giant tea-party during that time? 

Okay so maybe my conspiracy theories needs some more testing....

And as I rewrote the last two paragraphs, maybe foot-washing is serving it's humiliating purpose.....


  1. In the church I grew up in, foot washing services would always let you know who had a problem with who, because invariably one of them would pick the other's feet to wash, after which they would cry on each other's necks, and act like they actually liked each other. And I, in my childish mind, would think to myself: "Wonder how long that will last."

    Anyways...foot washing is very awkward.

  2. The ladies in my church don't have a tea party, but I can definately see the humor of this post. Not much humility and servitude, when most of the women wear pantyhoes for the foot washing to hide any foot imperfections (and prevent vomiting). While I have heard no confessions saying so, I'm sure there are also a great many pedicures experienced shortly before a foot washing service.
    A friend of mine would always argue that servitude was what Jesus was teaching and required in the passage and not literal foot washing through the centuries. I could agree with that, but found myself wondering what would be equivalent now days to cleaning dust, mud and possible animal excrement from someone's feet? Apo's everywhere, submit to a stint of candy striping at your local hospital and make sure you request treating bed sores and emptying bed pans :P :D

  3. Foot washing is probably more awkward today than it was 2,000 years ago.