Dirty Soles

My dear reader,

When I was in college, my friend Melissa washed my feet. It was one of the most unexpected and strangely lovely things that’s ever happened to me.

I was studying journalism (with minors in psychology, film, and frozen yogurt) and while I had plenty of reading assignments to keep me busy, I always circled back to my favorite book. Which also happens to be the best-seller of all time. (According to HuffPost. So it must be true.)

A gaggle of girls – all wildly different but drawn together by divine happenstance – gathered each week to talk, laugh, cry, pray, read and study that bestseller. Since Melissa only had a couple chairs in her sorority room, we typically sat on the floor, shoes off, guards down, Bibles and hearts wide open.


Because we didn’t just want to know about God.

We wanted to know Him.

We asked questions – hard questions – of God. We wondered and wrestled and pondered and prayed. We pressed for answers. And He spoke to us in the pages of that bestseller, time and again.

So we kept coming back to that room and that rug. It wasn’t long before it dawned on us that Melissa’s floor was… holy ground. We sat in a little circle, roaming back and forth in the scriptures, our discussions ranging far and wide, our souls laid bare in that place.

We were young and eager, bursting with passion and potential. Yet, painfully aware of our insecurities too. Deep down we knew the fancy degrees we were earning weren’t going to dispel our fears or reverse our failures. Not in the least.

We were what we were:

Unsure of ourselves. Anxious about our futures. Ashamed of our shortcomings.

Mine were plentiful. (And maddeningly persistent.)

My insecurities stalked me. My worries tossed me in the spin cycle and wrung me out. My secret sins kept rising to the surface and erupting like untimely blemishes. No amount of salicylic acid or makeup could cure or cover them up.

Dirt and dead stuff have a way of doing that. Things that were once clean and clear get clogged/infected/inflamed.

And it’s ugly.

But I digress…

One lovely spring afternoon in 1986, we were sitting around on Melissa’s floor reading from the Book of John:

It was almost time for the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus had always loved the people in the world who were his. Now was the time he showed them his love the most.

Jesus and his followers were at the evening meal. The devil had already persuaded Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over to his enemies. (Judas was the son of Simon.) The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God.  So while they were eating, Jesus stood up and took off his robe. He got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet. He dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist. 

He came to Simon Peter. But Peter said to him, “Lord, you should not wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what I am doing now. But later you will understand.”

Peter said, “No! You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, after you wash my feet, wash my hands and my head too!”

Jesus said, “After a person has a bath, his whole body is clean. He needs only to wash his feet. And you are clean, but not all of you.” Jesus knew who would hand him over to his enemies. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and went back to the table. He asked, “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am.  I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet.  I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you. Believe me, servants are not greater than their master. Those who are sent to do something are not greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, great blessings will be yours if you do them. (John 13:1-17, ERV)

Melissa closed her Bible, pulled up a chair, and told me to have a seat. Then she carried in a basin filled with warm, sudsy water and a big bath towel and knelt right in front of me. And she washed my feet. From the flip-flop-tan-lined tops to the unpolished toes… right down to my dirty, stinky soles.

She washed, dried, and blew me away that day. She knelt and served and blessed me. More than words can say. It was humbling and heart-searing. An object lesson – and precious memory – I’ll never forget.

Melissa washed my dirty soles.

Like Jesus washed my dirty soul.

The Master laid down His privilege… and picked up a servant’s towel… and washed away all my dirt and dead stuff.

The King of Kings wore a crown of thorns… and bore a cross.

For me and for you. (Two of billions – all – with blood on our hands.)

Staggering humility. Scandalous love. Outlandish grace.

That’s why Jesus came.

That’s who Jesus is.

His compassion is our invitation. His mercy, our gift.

His kindness beckons us away from the mud and muck, the dirt and the dead stuff.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4, NLT)

I turned. And He knelt and washed and blessed.

But invariably, sadly, I keep turning back.

Soiled again.

But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure. (1 John 1:9, NIRV)

The same night that Jesus washed the feet of His friends, He was betrayed by one of them. And then abandoned by the rest.

But His love didn’t flinch. (It never does.)

That’s the Good News.

The best news.



P.S. This Holy Week, let’s learn what the Teacher taught us to do: Forgive. Love. Serve. (Repeat.)