Lately I’ve been in the process of discovering the dynamics of our spiritual family and I wanted to make an attempt to vulnerably share what I learned about oneness this week through “my dirty feet.” Us Christians call ourselves “family” in general impersonal terms such as “the big family of Christ” that we are a part of. We will go so far as to refer to our church friends as brothers and sisters in Christ in reference to good experiences when we look back how they helped us or if we have a mushy feeling in the moment for some of our good friends. Many of us are also learning to be vulnerable in times of need and to also give selflessly where others are in need. Is that the whole picture? Is this the extent of what the spiritual family is that Jesus had in mind when He prayed to the Father: “I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one…” (John 17:23)?
Being that this prayer was Jesus’ final one before He was betrayed, I know it is one of great importance. So I scramble back to the beginning of His prayer and message which takes me to John 13. Five chapters that have repeated messages of oneness with God and with others. “I in them, them in Me” – think about that… Jesus is IN my brother and sister – the Jesus that I pray to, that I ask to receive from, the Jesus that loves me unconditionally – He is in my brother and sister! My spiritual family loves me! Like it or not, Jesus in you LOVES me!! I think if we can get even a measure of that perspective, it would help us in oneness with each other – more trust, more love.
John 13 starts out with Jesus washing the disciples feet. Peter struggled to allow Jesus to wash his feet. This is where Jesus starts to teach them in His message on oneness. And I wonder, don’t I struggle to allow the Jesus in my brother and sister to “wash my feet” – to see my need and pour out to me? It’s ok if Jesus sees my ugly cry, my weak, anxious, sinful and needy side when it’s the Jesus from my prayer closet, but I’m not so ok with Him seeing that part of me if He comes to me with a familiar face that I call Gaby, Brock, Carla or Donavan!
I can only live today’s moments, so instead of attempting to achieve perfect oneness in one quick leap, I look at how I am living towards oneness today and ask God to teach me about His ways through these present moments. Keeping it simple, He starts in the same way as with His disciples, with the challenge of having my feet washed… well, actually my feet first get dirty.
Here’s this week’s dirt:
As I worked through Pastor Stefan’s message challenges to grow in capacity that were sent out daily, I found myself increasingly hungry for encouragement. His challenges were to give out encouragement interspersed with some appreciation memory exercises. The days that the memory exercises came out were busy ones that I didn’t get a chance to really dive into and didn’t know who would be interested in hearing about my experiences, so I left those assuming that the encouragement stuff would be better received by others anyway. By the end of the week I felt quite starved for encouragement and felt so needy and annoyed with myself as I imperceptibly had built a self-protective wall that said: “I give… I don’t receive.” That Friday was my staff evaluation and I eagerly sat there hearing loads of pointed encouragement, but none of which touched my shielded heart that had been so hungry for exactly this! Now that was frustrating! I later met with some good friends and at this point wasn’t giving or receiving! My feet were dirty!
I was not the picture of oneness! Yet I had been sooooo loving that week in all the encouragement I had poured out! I was sooo giving and even sacrificed my own needs of encouragement because I didn’t want to bore people by having to listen to me share about my memories. I WAS NICE!!!! SELFLESSLY NICE!!! Even willing to wash the feet of others! But that alone was not oneness. I needed to let Jesus wash my feet… the Jesus that is in my brother and sister. (Lesson learned that both types of exercises are important, the giving AND receiving!)
I guess at this point I had now come to a place of needing to confess and be honest about what I was truly needing… These are times I would rather pray in my closet to the “faceless” Jesus, the one hidden in my heart rather than admit that I am “so ungodly” that I need people. But in past experiences I seem to feel so disappointed when my closet-time Jesus doesn’t fill me and remains silent to my neediness.
Do I not recognize Jesus in my brother and sister? Jesus said: “I in them…” We are willing to give to others as though we give to Jesus… are we willing to receive from others as though we receive from Jesus? And not only receive but ask!
I knew I was stuck and couldn’t get out of my little pit that I had made for myself until I would confess… confession to the Jesus in my brother/sister! So as fully as I could, I snitched on myself by email and confessed my week’s poor choices and the pit I found myself in. As much as I really hated to press send, a little sense of freedom ensued as soon as my iPad whoosh sounded.
If we are to have oneness with Jesus, we will have to have oneness with each other. This starts with dirty feet and regular vulnerable times of allowing others to see the need and wash my feet. Thank you to each of you who have washed my feet over the years and who have allowed me to wash your feet! I am so glad and so thankful that you are my family! I love you! And I know you love me whether you like it or not!!! 🙂
Here is a beautiful song to help us meditate on our family oneness more: