There is singing as we slip in the back. We’re late, which is normal for evening services. The cows can only be milked so fast and we can only start so early.
The congregation is singing, “Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior…”
Our bench soon fills with other farmers, also late with still-damp hair. We share a smile over our hymnals.
The pastor stands and words fill the sanctuary. “Jesus, on His last day…” And the tale repeats. The story of our redemption. The God who took our sin and our shame and our everything onto Himself. The man who had no sin, who became sin for us. So that despite our sin we could become the righteousness of God.
Then we’re walking the long aisle to the front, tipping back the cup, tearing off a piece of the bread. Remembering Him, poured out and broken. His blood, His body, His all.
We’re walking back when I’m reminded of the rest of the story. I’ve attended this church for years and still I forget. It’s not just the sacrifice that is remembered, but the command to serve as well. Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet and this body of Believers still practice this today.
The men and women separate and I’m pressed to my side. The men descend to the basement and the women climb the steps. They take turns kneeling in front of each other. Shoes slip off feet. Hands dip into basins. Water splashes and towels dry.
My cheeks burn. I’m a farmer’s wife. I haven’t had a pedicure. My toenails are ragged. I’m not careful when I shave. My right foot has a bruise in the shape of a cow’s hoof.
The other women, their feet don’t bother me, but mine?–I want to keep them hidden in shoes. Perhaps I can slip out the back?
I wish to be lovely and feminine, but my feet are dirty and broken. Why does it feel like in revealing my feet, I’d be revealing myself? Shame claws at me.
I’m caught in the crowd, moving forward even as I wish for escape.
Ahead, a grandmother kneels in front of a friend. Tears drip into the basin. The sobs echo down the hall. Later I know the whole story. How the last time she washed feet was with the granddaughter who was buried before Christmas.
Hearts shattering. Pouring out.
“I’ll wash your feet.” The voice causes my head to lift and I see another farmer’s wife. She leads me in and seats me. My shoes are off. My feet dipped. Rough, work-worn hands sprinkle water on my rough, work-worn feet.
His voice fills the room, fills my mind. “Why do you wish to hide your brokenness? Remember it, child, just as you remember mine.”
I stifle a laugh as the farmer-wife tries to scrub off the bruise that darkens my foot. She realizes that it is not a patch of dirt and her hands gentle. My feet are wrapped in towels and rubbed dry. I reach for my shoes and slip them on as I stand. “Thank you,” I whisper and she wraps me in a hug.
His voice comes again, “For in brokenness, my glory is revealed.”
We’ve all heard the stories about God bringing victory out of defeat, how He built an army out of dry bones, how His death brought us life. But let us also remember that in brokenness, only in brokenness–His beautiful, heart-wrenching, brokenness–are we truly made whole.