I decided to wash my husband's feet on our honeymoon. The deed was planned well in advance and I brought along a plastic basin from my home bathroom, which took up way too much room in my luggage.
I have grown in my appreciation for symbolism, as a natural function of growing in my appreciation for the Word of God. I have mentioned in other columns the time I decided to take James at his word and ask the elders of my church to anoint me with oil. God blessed that small obedience, and I give Him the praise.
From this step it was but a small advance to the idea that Jesus was not being merely poetic when he said the following:
"If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).
Of course Jesus meant this admonition in a general way as well, but certainly the washing of someone's feet is a legitimate means of demonstrating service and submission, and has the additional weightiness of being the actual means Jesus used.
So I took out my basin and filled it with warm water and kneeled down to perform my meaningful little ceremony. This was to be a poignant and deeply spiritual occasion, forever henceforth bathed in the gauzy light of memory.
Just then my cell phone rang and it was my brother. I suppose I could have said I was busy, but David seemed to nod consent to the interruption, and so I began a conversation with Marc that lasted an hour, during which time the transcendence of the solemn moment leached away by degrees until in the end I saw myself standing in an ordinary room with a cool bucket of water.
It is good to laugh at ourselves. C.S. Lewis noted the necessity of humor in all human affairs and attempts, lest we fall into the trap of "attempt[ing] to find an absolute in the flesh," as he put it. Speaking not precisely of foot-washing ceremonies but of sex (where no doubt the lesson also applies), he cautions against inflexibility and idolatrousness:
"[Venus] herself is a mocking, mischievous spirit, far more elf than deity, and makes game of us. When all external circumstances are fittest for her service she will leave one or both of the parties totally indisposed for it. When every overt act is impossible and even glances cannot be exchanged-in trains, in shops, and at interminable parties-she will assail them with all her force. An hour later, when time and place agree, she will have mysteriously withdrawn. …"
And as with intimacy so with the fanfare of foot-washing ceremonies, we are served notice that long anticipated and spiritually imbued solemnity can be scuttled by a phone call from your brother in Fort Lauderdale.