Made for another world

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Becoming Washers of Feet

I'm writing less and more sporadically these days, and it seems more raw. I thought when I came back from Serbia last October I would be a more liberated, world wise writer. I was wrong. It seems that words have become like a jagged, ugly cry rather than a thing of beauty. But some things of beauty, at least outwardly, are hideous. A brand new baby in a smelly, manure filled stable for example. Or perfect Jesus, with the tender voice and piercing eyes, blood matted on a cross. Perhaps that's where worth comes in, the holy meeting the putrid in a visceral mess.

Lately, when I un-clench a protective hand from my blood red heart, I stare at a silver vein running through it. It creates a stark contrast, this sliver of hope tracing itself on flesh. A promise held in trust. It aches like a splinter and throbs like love, tethering it's owners together, stretched thin through time and space.

What story can be told? I've told it before, over and over. Hands I've held in my own, small and dry from lack of care. Chewed for comfort, missing a mother's touch. I remember the feel of them; some days I wish I didn't. And yet he smiles and coos and laughs, if you can call the sound he makes laughter. Who's womb bore him and then gave him up when illness clamped it's steely jaws around his mind? Why would I, a stranger, grieve and cry and pray and beg for his life more than his own flesh and blood? What could her story be.

Sometimes I remember his fragile frame and wonder if a soul and body can just disappear. How many months until his stick legs are bent and twisted, never to straighten again? Will his smile dry up and the mask of loss be his to wear forever? Will the dull, glassy, institutional eyes replace the sparkle? Will he be lost for good? At the moment I see life flicker behind his eyes and I pray it doesn't vanish.

I'll see him in July. I catch my breath and wonder what I'll find. Will he be in the little bed, arms pushed through the rails, waiting? Will he have changed? Will I be able to bear seeing him again?

Sometimes I wonder how the world can take the burgeoning weight of her orphans without ripping at the seams of her huge heart, when it feels my own cannot. How do you taste the brutal love of a Father grieving for his children and not stagger under the weight of it? I cannot, and so most days I cry.

I cry for his mother who knew a beautiful, sweet child and lost him to disease. I cry for the hopes she had for who he would be. I cry for his body, his time, his future, his days locked away from love. I cry for what could have been and what may not be. I cry for me to have seen him and have fallen in love and have to live without him. I cry for everyone who hasn't seen, and lives as if he and his brothers and sisters don't exist, and miss the agony of caring. I cry because I escaped a life of neglect that so many in the world have known. I cry because Jesus cries and he wants company in the grieving. I cry because one day I trust I won't have to any more.

He's just one orphan of so very many, why could it possibly matter that I love him? Ezekiel 16 contains a peculiar passage that hints at the answer. God says to his people Israel, "No one had the slightest interest in you; no one pitied you or cared for you. On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die. “But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’" Is that not the story of humanity, of me? Is that not the story of the cross?

What if God had passed  by on the day we became orphans in the Garden at the beginning of time? What if he decided Jesus was too great of a price for our own lives, could you blame him? But he didn't. He has pursued us as though we have always been his sons and daughters.

That's what I came away with this Easter season. I was reminded that a great God stooped to clean and care for an orphaned humanity. I was reminded that I'm not greater than my Master and just as he washed feet it's my privilege and responsibility to wash feet too. Wherever I may find them. In my home, in my church, on the side of the road, in Serbia.

I wish I could daily wash the feet of this little orphaned boy. But right now I can't. And so I daily choose to bear the burden of love and wash his feet in prayer from a distance. It's always more complicated when holy and profane meet. I don't know if I'll ever bring him home and be his mama. But I will climb in the yoke of suffering with Jesus. The cross has made a way, and burdens that never seemed as if they could be born, for the love of Jesus, can be. I will labor for this child. The heavy heart that comes, in the light of Jesus, becomes a joy.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17

Who's burden are you carrying, who's feet has Jesus asked you to wash. The burden becomes joy when carried in love.

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