Two days after open heart surgery in January, I peed on my socks. You perhaps would do the same if a surgeon so recently had split open your chest, stopped your heart, and grafted in three bypass arteries taken from your leg, arm and inner torso.
Heavily sedated for pain and unsteady on my feet, I began—with limited success—to resume bodily functions. So it was socks that got soaked, and a nurse came to my rescue. She was young and attractive. In my beleaguered condition, I felt old and singularly unattractive.
Without a hint of impatience, she cleaned the tile floor and removed my socks. Are you going to wash my feet? I thought. She knelt and carefully washed them with warm soapy water.
“You are washing my feet!” I whispered hoarsely as she dried my toes with a towel. “Yes,” she replied, smiling. “Jesus did that once,” I said. “Yes, I know,” she answered kindly. Then in a tone that let me know she is a believer, she added, “I love that passage.” That day, at a most vulnerable and humbling point in my life, a young nurse was Christ to me.
“Are you going to wash my feet?” said Peter to Jesus after Passover meal in Jerusalem (John 13:6). If it was humbling for me to let a young nurse wash my smelly feet, it was even more difficult for Peter to let his Lord do the same.
Self-sufficiency and pride are difficult barriers to overcome, and part of me resented being in the hospital. I eat healthy foods, never smoke, and go to the gym three days a week. I take care of myself, thank you, and still something was wrong with my heart.
Peter, too, was self-sufficient—and did not think anything was wrong with his heart. But before that long Passover night was over, he badly peed on his socks. He impetuously lashed out with a sword at the High Priest’s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then he got scared and fled into the night when authorities arrested Jesus. In the early morning hours Peter denied that he ever knew his Lord—then wept bitterly.
In March I expect to begin the Ornish Reversal Program, cardiac rehab that is designed to reverse the course of coronary heart disease. The name of the program is evocative, since reversing direction is the root meaning of biblical repentance (Hebrew shuv, Greek epistrepho). The Ornish program includes diet, exercise, stress management, and relational components.
Sinners like me and you need the comprehensive heart reversal program better known as conversion. We can fill up our spiritual horizons with activism, community, and self-righteousness. But until we confess the sin of trying to be self-sufficient without the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we have not owned that something is wrong with our hearts.
Letting Jesus wash our smelly feet might be the first step toward a new heart and a healing change in life direction.
© 2016 J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************
By God’s grace I am well on the road to recovery from surgery, and look forward to getting back to the Holy Land this autumn. Join me and others who love the Bible for a Peace Pilgrim tour of Jordan and Palestine in September. See https://tourmagination.com/tours/by-date/2016-tours/498-jordan-palestine-israel-a-journey-of-hope