“Let them be boys.” My wife was right. My four year old and three year old just wanted to search our backyard for dandelions for their mommy. But, calculating the sum of muddy soil plus bare toddler feet, I was trying to avoid the resulting mess that would come with their adventure. “This is why we bought this house. So they can have a big yard to explore.” Noticing my error I said, “all right boys, have fun.” At dusk, as dinner was being put on the table, they returned to the back door with hands full of bouquets for their favorite girl.
Shortly after that conversation I was struck by a sacred moment. I grabbed a combination of wet and dry paper towels, knelt down, and began my daddy task of cleaning my boys’ feet. Did you catch the sacred moment? You may have missed it. I admit I almost missed it too. I was blessed to wash their feet. Under the darkening sky with my knee aching as it pressed against hard rock ground, I almost missed the gift God was giving me. For only a moment, I remembered the scene from John 13:1-17 where Jesus knelt down and washed His disciples’ feet. In verse 15, He specifically tells them that he is setting an example he wants them to follow. He says they will be blessed if they do (17). The thought came into my head briefly and then passed. But, what started as a seed of thought as I scrubbed mud, grew and bloomed as God used this sacred moment to remind me that sacred moments need not be what I often expect them to be.
Perhaps you are like me and you have learned to only look for sacred moments in special, tidy places that are easy to notice. Our consumer brand of Churchianity has discipled us to look for God in manufactured experiences. We have been taught to seek God in stage lights, amplified worship sets and well-crafted sermons. We justify that these moments must be sacred because thousands of others gather there too. And, we are right; God certainly can meet us in places like these. But what if God was more often found in mundane, messy places like washing feet? After all, isn’t He God of all? God redeems both the special and the simple, both the extraordinary and the ordinary.
When we read the scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, we might think this was a grand moment. Our lack of experience with this ancient practice of foot-washing may cause us to think that God chose a special, noticeable object lesson to make a point. In reality, foot-washing was more common than hand-washing is to us. Dusty, grimy, sandaled feet needed to be washed before the meal after a day of trudging through dirt and filth. It was an expectation that you wash your feet before you eat and often a host would provide a servant to do the dirty deed for guests. There was nothing outstanding about it. What was special about this moment was Jesus’ presence in this common practice. Jesus was there in this mundane, messy moment. Why would the Messiah take on such an dirty, ordinary task? It was beneath Jesus as King. It made Peter so uncomfortable he nearly refused. I resonate with that. I am not comfortable looking for God’s presence in the mundane and certainly not the messy.
But what if my mundane, messy, miss-able moments are the very moments where Jesus wants to meet me. And what if my heart assumes, like Peter, that God cannot possibly be in those types of moments. I know in my heart I do. I am trained to hope for God’s presence in a worship service, or sermon, or retreat, but don’t even think about His presence in my commute, or dinner conversation, or hand-washing. It would be like driving through a national park full of the grandeur of creation and ignoring the beauty because I am on my way to an amusement park to get a thrill. I remember what it is like to find God in the “church camp” high, but I also remember what it is like to feel the “back to normal” low of returning home. What if I could hope for God at home like I did at camp?
With the disciples’ feet still wet from the washing, Jesus speaks about what they should do when they are seeking Him (John 13:33). He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Here’s the point: most of our loving acts are either unnoticed or insignificant. Not all, of course. Love is found in the significant moments like marriage proposals, wedding days and the labor of childbirth. God will give us the good gifts of special moments and we should expect He will. But, let us also receive the very good gifts of the mundane moments as well. If most of our loving acts are unnoticed and insignificant, it should not surprise us that most of God’s are as well. After all, He has lovingly provided you with the very oxygen you are breathing. No pomp or circumstance; no ribbon or bows. Just a faithful provision that you take in without ever giving it any thought. There was nothing special about me washing those toddler feet. I doubt my boys will remember it. This won’t be a moment that they look back on as significant when they are all grown up. But, just my expectation that sacred moments need to be something other than common is the indicator that I might miss God in the mundane. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s work of teaching me to notice His presence in washing toddler feet.