Friday, August 17, 2012
Holy Paper Towels and Soapy Water!
My life is so full of ordinary. I am a mother and a wife and I work as a pre-school teacher and no one would ever guess by looking that during college God called me to ministry, or that I answered that call and am answering it still. God led me here. To this time and place, this season of life where I am more likely to be covered with sweaty hugs from my three sons or the remnants of pre-schooler lunches that I helped open than the formal stole and robe that I wear as an ordained minister. Yet in the middle of my ordinary, the Holy Spirit reminded me that ordinary is often the deepest well one encounters.
It's so easy to slip into assumptions that only the big things count in life, those things that leave us wonder struck, amazed, and impressed. Ever notice how difficult it is these days to leave an impression? We are so hungry for gargantuan achievement that anything less is rendered obsolete, as if it is not worthy of notice.
But God notices everything.
It happened so quickly that if I had not had that grace-filled moment of clarity I would have missed it. I was getting ready to paint handprints for our sweet 4 year olds to take home to their mommies. I had carried an old tub to the bathroom to fill with soapy water so that our children could easily clean their hands. I guess it was the way that I tossed the collection of unrolled paper towels over my shoulder that did it. Another scene flashed in my mind's eye. It was if I was witness to that upper room that Jesus filled with His Presence on the night that he was betrayed, claiming a few precious moments with His disciples before He was taken away. I could see Him swinging a towel over His shoulder just before picking up a basin. He was preparing to wash the grimy feet of His dearest friends. I was preparing a place for my little students to wash away the paint from their little hands.
That picture of Jesus is so precious to me. I am a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. The towel and basin are the symbol of the servant ministry Deacons are called to. While we don't often serve the Church in the traditional sense, we have the special task of connecting the world to the Church, and the Church to the world in roles that serve others. But Deacons are not alone in that Call. Anyone who follows Jesus is Called. And although it can be shaped in so many different ways, at the heart of our Calling, we are still continuing that intimate ministry of service, demonstrated by the Savior who takes a special moment with each disciple simply to wash dirty feet.
It ain't glamorous.
But Jesus honors it as ministry close to His heart. So everytime one of us as His disciples serves someone He loves, He honors it. And He multiplies it.
I think the message in the moment is that everytime we pick up the towel to serve, He is there. In our love poured out, in the face of the ones we are waiting upon.
The work of mommies and daddies counts. All those tasks that seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things (getting little teeth brushed, dressing wiggly bodies, washing sweaty heads, fixing fast dinners, getting those wide-eyed wonders in bed) is love being poured out on another life He loves. The work of loving a husband or wife counts. All those small encouragements are not insignificant, given to this one who walks each day beside us, prayers prayed in hard circumstances, the unseen ways we prop that precious one up when gravity keeps pulling them down. The work of teaching counts. All those passing minutes that require delicate patience and creative communication so that little ones learn to love learning are not wasted. The work of plumbing, , and banking, and principal-ing, and writing, and computer science-ing, and farming, and . . . and . . . and . . . it goes on and on into every nook and cranny of ordinary we occupy. Each day that we go into the unglamorous world of making a living, yet do it with hearts willing to serve, not for the recognition but because others need it, we are Counted by the One who was initially dis-counted and hung on a cross. Hanging out on the low end of the totem pole counts, because that is where Jesus counts Himself, and that is where we have opportunity to serve Him the most. When no one is looking. When the world would not count it as impressive at all.
Jesus counts it as Holy.