The Unending Washing of Feet

This little icon sits on the windowsill of our bathroom (with the lovely 1950's blue tile). We were given it as part of my graduate program, back at the beginning of our marriage. We've stuck it in the bathroom in this house and our previous one. Initially, it was almost a, Jesus is washing feet and we're in the bathroom? Get it??

But it's taken on a deeper meaning as we've continued in this business of forming a family, our own little domestic monastery. Over the years, it's served as a reminder for me, sometimes in the most convicting moments. When potty training a stubborn toddler, dawdling on the toilet and begging me to read her the potty board book one more time, I've been reminded to take a deep breath and be patient. When bathing a tubful of little ones, I've been reminded that what I'm doing has significance. By my very job description, I wash feet (and, as Peter said, "hands and head" as well!). It's so ordinary, that sometimes I forget how extraordinary this vocation of mine is.

We used to keep this icon in our main bathroom, but when we moved to our new house, we put it in the little half bath that is connected to our master bedroom. It's the bathroom that I periodically retreat to and lock the door, so I can take care of business without an audience. It's also the bathroom that I use when the baby doesn't want me out of her sight, because I put her in her crib and keep her in my line of sight. So, it's the bathroom that offers me a moment or two of silence in the midst of a nonstop day.

The other day, I noticed this icon and suddenly saw it in a different way. I noticed the weariness on Jesus's face, and the expectant looks on the Apostles' faces. They weren't looking with hope...they were looking with neediness. And Jesus looked with a combination of weariness and love. They are twelve of them. They're surrounding him. It seems like too much for any one man. Granted, this one man is also God, but he still took on our physical limitations in his incarnation. And with those limitations, he took on the ability to experience exhaustion.

Our little Zelie is probably the happiest baby I have ever met, and is also a terrible sleeper. I think she's "slept through the night" (i.e. at least six hours) once. Normally, she eats every 2-3 hours (at least) around the clock. Her incredible sweetness makes this bearable, and even enjoyable. But that kind of relentless does lead to exhaustion, as any parent of a baby knows. I was exhausted with one daughter, then with two, but adding in a third child has added a new level of exhaustion. (Thank goodness for coffee!)

Then there are my two older daughters. Their needs are more complex.  Since we are homeschooling, there are their academic needs, always on my mind during the week (and weekends, but I don't make them do school then!). But their needs extend so far beyond that. They are beautiful little loves, in need of emotional and spiritual formation. They need smiles. They need my love. They need my patience (admittedly, the area where I fail the most). And, of course, they need all of the basic physical things every child needs - fresh, clean clothes (that fit!), filling meals and snacks, enough sleep, and a good bath every few days.

One day recently, I was in the midst of changing a very messy diaper while meltdowns were happening and I found myself saying aloud, "It's too much! This is too much for any one person!"

It is too much. It is far too much. I've had other jobs, over the years. I've done graduate level coursework. Never have I done such difficult, demanding work as the work I now do. And never have I loved a job as much as I love this one.

Yet, sometimes I feel weary. Sometimes the needs that surround me feel like too much.

But...that icon. This is the beauty of the Incarnation, isn't it? Jesus took on our sufferings and he fully understands what we are facing.

In seeing that icon, I is okay to be tired. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is too much for one person to do. But...I don't have to do it alone. He does it with me. 

In fact, the feet I'm washing (and searching for socks for and tying shoes on) don't belong to me alone. They ultimately belong to Him. I don't have to do this alone. I have Him. I always have Him.

Unseen though my work is, weary though I may be at times, this is my path to heaven. This ordinary, beautiful life is my vocation. And through this vocation, I'm gifted with the opportunity to kneel beside Jesus and wash feet.


  1. Beautiful. This will be one of those posts were I'll keep coming back and reading, finding new inspiration and joy every time I read it.

    Thanks for writing! God bless you for writing has helped me in so many ways, especially in discerning my vocation.

    Sincerely in Jesus,



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