Stickiness and the Upper Room

 

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Sticky strings attached to the bottom of my feet cruelly connect me to the dirty ground. I take steps, but it’s a strained motion like I can’t quite pick up my own feet. These ties stick to my mind too. Selfishly twisting and twirling my thoughts into an anxious tizzy. They lurch for anything with life and attempt to subdue light reducing their agility to false and stunted movement. Freedom is coerced by bonds so tiny.

I wonder if I’m enough or if I’ll ever measure up to my own far reaching expectations. Sticky strings run rampant all around me. Will I ever be free?

I wonder if I can be fully me and if others will like that. Then I chide myself for caring too much. More strings reach out with their sultry grasps as if my doubt birthed the tethers.

I panic when people, conversations or things don’t fit into my carefully crafted boxes. Boxes I hate, but that hover around me like pesky flies. They are greedy and desperate for attention.

More strings. More stickiness. Suffocation of thought and emotion. Why is this happening again?

This is what I feel as I walk dusty streets at dusk and climb stone stairs to join the others in the upper room. Tonight I feast to celebrate God’s people freed from slavery, while I hold myself hostage and my soul starves. I laugh in quiet desperation.

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I enter a simple loft with a long table low to the ground decorated only with the evening’s Passover meal.

Immediately, his eyes find mine.

He already knows I’m in round three of a boxing match. Me against me. I’m ready to throw in the towel, but I can’t admit defeat either. What kind of fight is this?

We eat dinner. The others are laughing and lounging. Me? I’m smiling, but I can’t feel it. I’m so distracted by my inner battle I can barely hear the conversation around me. This should be my happy place; a lovely dinner with those I love and care about, yet I feel bruised from beating myself up.

Will I be able to breathe normally again?

I take a piece of bread and bite into its warmth. Softness and toughness breaks in my mouth. I wash it down with some wine. Crimson, cool, and complete.

He gets up. That’s not like Him. He’s usually the last to leave the table.

I watch as he gets out a bowl and a towel from the corner I hadn’t noticed. Then he kneels before one friend at the table with the towel and basin, and begins to gently wash his feet. My friend is surprised, but compliant. He seems intrigued.

He moves on to another friend who begins to quietly weep at his touch. I don’t understand, but it is as if more than her feet are being tended to. He moves on to the next person, and suddenly I realize his intent.

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Our teacher is going to wash each and every one of our grimy feet. How could he do a servant’s lowly task?

But there’s more to it than water and dirty feet. I can see it in each person’s eyes. While some are decidedly confused, others are clearly touched with tears streaming down their faces.

I’m far less afraid of the dirt on my feet than I am the filth of my heart. I can’t bear for him to touch such impurity.

He moves to the next person with a kind smile and eyes so warm and open you could get lost in his gaze. I should find this comforting, instead I dread my turn.

I’m frozen. I want to bolt. I glance at the door. He glances at me. His eyes, dark in color, yet full of light, are tender, inviting and welcoming. His presence even from a distance commands me. It’s tangible. I can almost feel him surrounding me. For a moment my heart stills to a quiet calm.

Then he moves on to the next person and my heart begins a vicious thrum. I wonder if the person next to me can hear its skittish beats.

My fingers flutter and my hands look for a distraction. I rest my fingers on the solid wood of the table. I feel the grit and grain under my fingertips. A sliver of wood slices into my finger and I quickly pull my hand away. For a split second, he looks to my hand and at the wooden table with a sad look. But only for a moment, as he tenderly continues washing my friend’s feet, drying them and moving on to the next person who is sitting beside me.

 

Now he’s kneeling so close I can feel his warmth.

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A firm thought rises from my sticky swirling mental game. He cannot wash my feet. I won’t let Him.

He looks over at me with an expression that is both tender and markedly determined. It was the same look I saw when he wanted the children to come to him. It was the look I saw when a bleeding woman was healed with a touch and he wanted to know who she was. It was the look he gave the boy with the five fish and a few loaves of bread.

Now he is looking at me.

Panic slowly fills me starting at my feet and working its way up swirling and expanding like inky darkness in thick pure olive oil.

Something else is fighting back, something calmer, but I’m too afraid and distracted to see it. My breath shortens to quick breaths in and out, in and out. I close my eyes hoping to calm myself and slow my breathing. Maybe no one will notice?

Fear, doubt, rage, insecurity, blame, shame, and guilt vie for my attention like waves competing to capsize a fishing boat on a stormy night. I’d rather face the waves again than the push and pull of this inner tension.

I don’t need to open my eyes to know he kneels before me waiting. Waiting. Here is the man I have followed, listened to, and playfully teased like a little sister.

If what he said to us was true, then God himself kneels before me waiting to wash my feet. Open, vulnerable, patient. Would he wait for me all night?

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Yes. Yes, I think he would. I fight back tears, which threaten to break me. I feel the sticky shrouds loosen their mean grip.

My heart pounds hard against my chest. I’m not worthy of such treatment. What should I do?

A wave of heat and uncertainty sweep over. I want to give up and give in, but would that be defeat?

No.

He didn’t say it, but I hear his voice penetrate the tangled web.

I’d made a habit of coddling my insecurities, sorting through sticky thoughts, and scrambling to do it all right, but I didn’t want to any more. I longed to be free from the restraints I constructed and maintained like a little garden of poison.

How could I let him touch the dirt and grime that clogged my heart, scattered my mind, and twisted my soul?

Why me? Why my dirt?

Because you’re enough. His words echo in my soul and gently snip a few sordid strings.

Enough. The word I longed to hear, but feared to believe.

Believe it. His soul whispers to mine. Believe and be free.

How can I be enough? If only he knew all about me.

I do know you, and that is why I love you. You are enough because I am enough.

Hot tears spill out of my eyes betraying my composed facade.

I nod yes. I can’t speak, but I open watery eyes and brave looking into His. There I run smack into affection. I’m enveloped with an overwhelming depth of generosity and acceptance. I’m soaked in the presence of him. For a moment, I forget to breathe.

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In his eyes and tenderness, I stumble upon love and more love. I find home.

I recognize his expression. I had caught glimpses of it before. It was the look he gave Lazarus after pulling him out of the grave. It was the same look he gave me when he hauled my silly self from the waves. It was the expression I saw when he first said, “Come. Follow me.”

I extend my dirty feet. He smiles as if he’s been given the best gift. He hums softly as he washes my feet. I see my muck muddy his strong hands, but only for a moment. Fresh, clean water pours over my feet. I feel a rush of mercy surge within and flood over me. Cleansed from the inside out. Dirt is but a temporary hindrance.

Water splashing my feet.

Water soaking my soul.

My foot is cradled in the Savior’s hand. Dirt scatters in a deep cleanse. With a final anointing he looks into my eyes.

“Enough,” He says.

“Enough” to the waves that crash and churn within your soul. “Enough” with the thoughts that blow here and there. I am in you and I love you as myself with a never ending love. I would die for you. You need not question my love or where you stand with me.

Enough, Dear Heart, you are mine.

With my name on his lips, I feel those sticky ties snip away like they were nothing but delicate spider’s web wriggling in the breeze. My breathing slows and deepens. Warmth and ease melts away the inner turmoil and quietly defeats the battle at hand. My heart, mind and soul feel light like they could float away with the clouds.

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I look into his eyes once more. It’s as if I’m seeing love for the first time. I realize all along his intent was my freedom.

A snippet of color pops into my mind’s eye. A picture. I grasp at the surprise vision and look into the window of his purpose for me. To be a rock that love is built upon. To serve, laugh, work and play with open arms. It’s both a mystery to be discovered and an intuition to rest in. I can’t fully discern the meaning. I don’t think I’m supposed to. But in this calling, I awaken to live untethered and to freely delight. I’m not sure what this will look like. Sometimes messy, sometimes solid, but always free.

He dries my feet and sets aside the basin. In the dim light, the swirling sand and water appear scarlet. It looks strangely of death and of life at the same time. I look down at my clean feet it, amazed and undone by the simple, clear feeling of hope.

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” (Romans 5:1-2)

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