Peter said to him (Jesus), “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” John 13:8 RSV
It’s been a difficult summer.
Early in June, while the skies were still clear and cool, when the mountains gleamed in green invitation, I suffered a bout of my old nemesis: pneumonia. As I struggled to recover, I lost my balance and fell—three times. The worst fall was the second one when I was trying to pull weeds in my garden and fell over backwards, ending up with a bloody lump on my head and a swollen, injured knee.
One of my sons said, only half in jest, “Mom, your goal this weekend is not to end up in the emergency room.”
Gone were my happy plans for trips and camping. And gone, too, was another chunk of my independence.
I, who spent nearly 40 years hiking and skiing, now have to walk with a cane and be very careful about where and how I put my feet. I, who once spent summers maintaining a big vegetable garden, now have to stop myself from pulling pesky thistles from the lawn edge. I, who helped others, now have to ask for and accept help, myself. I’m learning to say the hardest words, “Yes, thank you.” Yes, I need help weeding my garden. Yes, I’ll lean on your strength when I go down stairs or step off a curb. Yes, I’ll let the folks in the store help me carry out packages.
I confess that, in my heart of hearts, I thought somehow I would waltz off into eternity without dealing with the problems and limitations of old age, that they would happen to everyone else but me!
Admitting those limitations, receiving the service of others, I find, is downright humbling. I have new understanding of Peter’s response to Jesus’ foot washing at the Last Supper. The one he called Lord and Teacher was about to kneel at his stinky feet with a basin and a towel. It was more humility than Peter could bear.
But it was necessary for him, as it is for us all. Jesus knew that.
Humbling teaches us we’re not in control, we’re not the center of the universe, we need other people and the help God provides through them. Humbling softens our hearts, gives us compassion. We learn what every child of God does, sooner or later:
God does His best work when we come to the end of ourselves.
LORD JESUS: I bow before You. Help me to humble myself, to accept my limitations, to realize “…apart from (you), (I) can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Amen.
First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” August 8, 2021.