Washing Grizzly's Feet
A few days ago, we had some trees cut in our yard, followed by heavy rains, which inevitably left that area quite soggy and muddy. While I am careful to step around the mud holes, Grizzly plows right through them, unfazed.
This is his part of the yard where he gets to play fetch and take care of his morning business each day outside the boundaries of Wally and Pancho, our other two dogs. When I throw his stick of choice, he bounds after it, oblivious to the puddles he splashes through or the dirt he cakes on his legs and paws as he dashes off to fetch his prize. He slides like he’s going into home plate when he seizes it and just as enthusiastically darts back to me.
This is his work in the world - running, leaping and fetching sticks - what he was made to do, in his part of the yard. To his larger-than-life way of being, getting dirty in the process is a given.
Standing at the screened door, my heaviest coat over my robe and pjs, I realize what a mess I have on my hands; but this morning it’s 32 degrees outside and I don’t want to turn on the water hose even if Grizzly doesn’t mind cold water on his paws. Relying on his verbal command training, I allow him just inside the kitchen door before I tell him to sit and stay while I head to the laundry room for wipes.
When I return, I lift the first filthy paw and began to clean the mud from between his paw pads and up his legs. It takes a least 3 wipes per paw - 12 wipes in total. As I clean, he lies down on his side, gently lifts each paw to me and humbly receives my help. It is then that I realize: I am washing my dog’s feet!
I think of Peter and Jesus at Passover and it’s not lost on me that only twenty minutes ago I was pondering the beginning of Lent and praying about a way to move through this season in remembrance.
It’s popular to think in terms of giving something up, which that is certainly one way to participate, but this year I’ve been thinking about what to move towards. Maybe I’m looking for something that I find difficult yet know would be good for my mind, body or soul. Jesus knew all along what he was going to do, but I can only imagine that from the time He entered the city of Jerusalem on the back of his donkey, he must have felt the knot in his stomach, the physical tightness in his jaw, the bodily symptoms of forcing yourself to go towards something that feels threatening.
He was fully God, but he was also fully human, which means he would have felt those same physical symptoms of anxiety or dread in his body that we feel, despite knowing that in the end he would conquer it. I find it comforting to think about Him feeling those same emotions that I feel. I find even more comfort in knowing He conquered them.
I’ve noticed lately how I am quick to turn back at the slightest uncomfortable feeling. If I don’t like how something feels, I assume the worst possible outcome and find something to distract myself or numb the feeling rather than stay with the uncomfortable, acknowledging it is only that, a feeling, and moving on through it. The feeling itself doesn’t indicate the final reality of a situation, though the enemy of Truth will tell you it does.
Peter didn’t like how it felt when Jesus approached him, towel in hand, becoming the lowliest of servants, to wash his feet. This wasn’t who Peter wanted Jesus to be or how Peter saw himself. He initially refused Jesus. Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter fires back with, “Not only my feet, my hands and head too.” I love Peter’s overzealous, gluttonous reply. He seems to always swing from one extreme to another. How human! Peter saw that enduring the humility of being served by Jesus and accepting continual cleansing was necessary to experience life in the kingdom that had come. In that moment, kingdom life was the joy set before Peter.
As of now, I don’t know how I will mark the coming days of Lent, but I want to move through this season remembering that enduring and conquering means living with sometimes dreadful feelings- paying attention to them, questioning them, but not giving them the final say. Hebrews says He endured the cross because of a joy that was waiting for him. He bore the feelings of the moment, because eternal joy was in front of Him.
My prayer for Lent is this: May I be like Grizzly, unafraid to freely embrace my mission, willing to do what I am made to do in my part of the world, knowing I’ll pick up some mud along the way, and living freely with the assurance that Jesus will wash my feet again and again.