THE FOOT-WASHING PART of Communion service is hard for me as an introvert because it requires awkward social interaction. The actual washing part is easy. Looking for a partner, however, is almost as terrifying as asking someone out on a first date. It’s worse on the days I play the piano for church service because I reach the room after everyone has paired up. So I end up making excuses to myself for not taking part in the foot washing.
My dad once told me, “There is nothing remarkable about washing your friend’s feet; washing your enemy’s feet is much more meaningful.” That inspired me to look beyond myself and wash the feet of ladies I hadn’t spoken with much before. I learned so much, and many experiences touched me. Each person has a unique washing style: some
women are really chatty and almost gossipy; a few are gentle and soothing; others give a hard massage, then briskly rub your feet with the towel; still others quietly pray for you.
I began looking for people who didn’t have a partner, often asking those still seated in the sanctuary after I finished playing the piano. More often than not I’m greeted with rejection because that person just wants to be left alone. But once in a while there’s a grateful shy smile of a fellow sufferer who didn’t know whom to ask.
And then there is this humbling story that my friend shared on her Facebook page. It took place a few years ago when she was a new convert:
“Last Sabbath we had Communion service at church. It was my first Communion at this church, and a nice woman led me to where the ordinance of humility was to take place. As we washed each other’s feet I told her about my first-ever Communion, not only as a Seventh-day Adventist but also the first time in my life.
“I remember being curious that day at church about the neat row of enamel basins filled with water and placed at the back of the church. I picked up a bulletin from the entrance and read that it was Communion day. Ah, my first Communion ever! I thought, and felt very excited.
“I knew what Communion was and had seen people receive it in other churches, but I was confused when the pastor said, ‘Now we shall separate for the foot washing. Ladies to the room at the back on the righth and side, and gentlemen on the left.’ I thought, So that’s what the basins are for, and my heart sank! My initial enthusiasm vanished. I didn’t want anyone to wash my feet, because after taking two buses and walking for 20 minutes in sandals to get to church, my feet were in terrible condition. Had I known about this I would have washed them using the tap outside before entering the church.
“Everyone began to move toward the rooms, some in pairs, and I sat huddled in a corner not knowing what to do and hoping no one would notice me. I was looking down trying to memorize the hymnbook, making myself look as small as possible, when I heard a soft, kind voice say to me, ‘May I wash your feet?’ I looked up to see the beautiful woman who had been playing the piano.
“ ‘I . . . I . . . er . . .’ I tried to think of something to say. Finally, I said slowly in shame, ‘But . . . they’re . . . umm . . . rather dirty.’
“She smiled and said, ‘Well, that’s the whole point of foot washing.’
“And she washed my feet, praying silently over each foot as if there was no greater privilege on earth than to be able to wash my dirty feet.
“Friends, isn’t it amazing to be part of God’s family?” It’s still difficult for me to participate in the foot washing ceremony. But what blessing might I miss out on if I skip for my own selfish reasons? It is only when we shift the focus away from ourselves that we learn the true meaning and significance of foot washing in the Communion service and learn to be examples of Christian love.