This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.
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John 13:14-15 (NIV)
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
It’s all about me . . . or is it? I may not be much, but I’m all I think about. I’ve really had to learn to get out of myself. And the only way I’ve been able to do that is to serve others.
Don’t get me wrong, I can get right back into myself on a daily basis and I often do. However, that’s when the boogey men of depression, anxiety, fear, and anger start showing up.
All of those emotions are purely about me. If I’m angry, it’s because I’m not getting my way; if I’m afraid, I’m worried about something bad happening to me. Someone told me depression was about things in the past and anxiety was about things in the future, but both are certainly me absorbed with me. I want to be as sensitive as I can about this because I’ve been extremely depressed a few times myself; but the bottom line is that when I was depressed, I was very much focused on myself.
Again, the way out is counterintuitive and Jesus knew it. He told us to wash each other’s feet as He has done for us. This was his last act of ministry with the twelve disciples. His parting line to them was to serve each other as He had served them.
I think that speaks clearly into many of my troubles. My troubles as a kid, issues I’ve had as an employee and even as an employer, issues with my wife or kids — my troubles could’ve clearly been squared away with me washing some feet. If I had been serving anyone other than myself, many of my problems would simply not have existed. Certainly my addictions weren’t serving anyone other than me. All of my behavior was totally selfish.
Now bear in mind, this is somewhat of a radical teaching, too. Jesus was about to be reigning king of the world in a few days, and every one of these Twelve would know that very shortly. And He’s washing their feet.
It gets even more radical though. He knew that one of his friends would betray Him and side with His enemies. He knew that one of the twelve He had been very close to would even deny knowing Him — three times. He knew that for the most part they’d all prove to be “fair weather friends” within the next few hours, as they’d all flee the authorities and hide, trying to save their own butts. Yet He washed their feet.
That’s a tall calling for me . . . maybe taller than I can handle.
Does that mean when my family is short with me, I should serve them? Does that mean when a friend lets me down, I should figuratively wash his feet? Does that mean when I get sideswiped at the office or in the market-place, I should show up to serve those who sought me harm? Does that mean when somebody cuts me off in traffic, I should smile and yield? Wow, I’m not sure I can handle all this Christianity stuff. Yet looking back, I know if I’d been serving others almost all of my problems simply would not have existed.
I’ll share this personal story with you.
Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and birthdays had become very self-indulgent events in our house; and, frankly, they were fairly miserable days. If it was Father’s Day, I got to do whatever I wanted, and the same was true on my birthday. I always chose to go play golf, and I picked the restaurant we’d eat at; it was my day.
The first Father’s Day after Kay and I had separated and then reconciled, I got an idea after someone had shared the verse with me about washing feet. I decided I would get up on Father’s Day and make breakfast for everyone and celebrate with them however they chose.
Kay even looked at me funny and said, “Well, it’s your day. But don’t you want to go play golf or something?”
I didn’t really want to that year; I wanted to celebrate that I had kids and a grandson and I had my wife back. It was one of the best days of my life. I fed everybody, we spent the day together doing whatever they wanted to do, and I was overjoyed about it. Go figure.
Jesus was right again. He loved us enough to tell us that our real happiness would hinge not on what we get, but on what we give in service of others. He washed the disciples’ feet and asked them to do the same, but I don’t think He told them to do it just to be a taskmaster. He asked them to follow His example to steer them to true happiness.
Here’s a tough one for you and me and everyone else. Are you getting up every day trying to collect on your expectations of everyone around you, or are you seeking opportunities to wash some feet?
If you’re like me and we get really honest, we can admit that we’re all about us most of the time. The answer to most of my negative emotions is very simple — get out of bed, fill the bowl with water, and show up to serve. Jesus knew how critical this concept is to my happiness and yours; therefore He made it His last act with His disciples. He knew we’d get miserable chasing our wants around and He knew our only way out of our own misery was to serve others. So He, as our Lord, bent down as a servant to show us how it’s done.
Are you willing to try the Savior’s way to happiness? Is it possible He knows what’s better for you than you do? Are you willing to wash your enemy’s feet? If you are, your misery meter will drop quickly. Try it. It saves my butt when I do it, and it gets me out of myself.
Next: Aw, Dad, you didn’t … Did you?
Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901
Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.