The year was 1991. I remember it vividly. Sitting in my wheelchair, my right leg swollen and angry looking, the metal through and through pins were throbbing. My foot was purple, which meant the circulation was impaired. The doctor had warned if it didn't improve, they were going to amputate my leg. I was so afraid.
I could hear the children playing. My four loves were running in and out of their rooms laughing. School was out and I wondered how we'd manage over the summer.
I knew my foot needed attention, but what do you do when you can't reach?
It had taken every ounce of my energy to make it to the bathroom that day. Taking a shower was quite an ordeal. First, I had to wrap my leg in a large, plastic garbage bag and tape it up tight so no water could get in. That way, the pin holes wouldn't get wet, which could cause a major staph infection. Next, I had to figure out how to hobble to the shower and get in on one foot. Thankfully, a friend had lent me some safety crutches with rounded bottoms. I could use them to steady myself. Doctor's orders were no weight bearing whatsoever on my right leg, so that meant I showered quickly and usually only once a week because it was so dreadfully difficult.
My body was clean except my foot. I knew I had to ask for help but which of my children would be willing? I didn't want to ask my 15-year-old son. He'd already taken on so many of the household responsibilities, I couldn't add another to his ever growing list. My 7 year old daughter would have been willing, but not strong enough, and my 4 year old daughter was simply out of the question. I knew the only other option would be to ask my then 9 year old daughter, Erin.
Calling her into the living room, I said, "Honey, I need your help." Gladly, she smiled at me and said, "What Mom?" I told her to look at my foot. She did and said, "It looks so dark, it's almost black!" I replied, "Yes, and that's why I need your help." I told her I needed her help in washing my foot. I explained she'd have to be extremely careful and it wasn't going to be fun. "In fact," I said, "it's going to be really gross." The look on her face broke my heart. Although I knew she'd do whatever needed to be done, I didn't want to put that heavy weight on such a little girls shoulders.
She looked at me and smiled saying, "I'll help you, Mom." So I told her what to do. I had her get a rectangular, plastic bin and fill it with a few inches of warm water. I watched as her little arms carried the heavy container back to where I was. She sat it in front of me. Using both arms I lifted my lifeless leg. When it was lifted, she slid the container beneath me and helped lower the injured limb into the water.
I could barely feel the temperature on my foot. The car accident had crushed both bones in my right leg and had damaged nerves. I had no idea if the water was scalding or barely warm, but I had to trust that my little girl had done her best.
I sat with my foot in the water for about twenty minutes. There were two reasons for soaking that long - one was to allow Erin to continue to play with her siblings, and the other was to soak away some of the stinky, dead skin that had accumulated since the accident and my inability to bathe.
When I felt like the time was right, I called her back into the room and asked her to get some soap and a washcloth. Kneeling in front of me, I instructed her to gently lift my swollen, discolored foot and begin scrubbing with gentle circular motions. When she went to slide her hand beneath my foot, I noticed layers and layers of dead skin and grime float to the top of the water, but not once did she complain. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about another foot washing thousands of years ago...
Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room. They'd just partaken of their last supper together. Jesus had risen from the table, stripped, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Going to each disciple, He'd taken the role of a lowly servant, washing their feet. Those feet were filthy, covered in dust and dirt from the roads they'd traveled, but Jesus worked diligently performing a special act of love.
If you've never had your feet washed by someone, you may not understand how this simple act can humble a person.
My little girl's young hands were so small and tender as she worked to remove layers of dead skin. I hated to rely on her for such a nasty chore, but I had no choice. Through tear filled eyes, I watched as she worked. She never complained about the smell or about the filth, but I knew it bothered her.
There were many other times I had to ask Erin to wash my foot during the year my leg slowly healed. Without her help, I would have surely lost my foot and more than likely my leg. There were no home health nurses available to those without insurance and since my attorney hadn't finalized the lawsuit against the man who hit me, there was no money to hire someone to help.
It's been 31 years since that horrible motor vehicle accident but I still remember so many things God used to teach and humble me with during that time. My children were changed, too. They had to grow up too fast during that year, but not all of the experiences were bad. They also learned a lot about God's faithfulness and His provision.
Foot washing is such a beautiful act of service and humility. Jesus gave us such a loving example of it in the book of John. The disciples didn't understand why He would stoop so low and perform such a menial task, but it was merely a foreshadowing of His upcoming crucifixion and the sacrificial gift of love He'd share there. As Our Lord and Savior hung humbly on the cross, beaten, scorned, and broken, I've often wondered if even one of those men looked at his nail pierced feet and remembered the feeling of His gentle, loving hands as He knelt that day to wash their soles...their souls.
1 Peter 5:5-6 says: "Clothe (apron) yourselves, all of you, with humility [as the garb of a servant, so that its covering cannot possibly be stripped from you, with freedom from pride and arrogance} toward one another. For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful) - [and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves (demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation) under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you."