Washing Dishes

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

I remember my first church camp in the summer of 1977. I had just completed 7th grade and our youth minister took us to Camp Wentz in Ponca City. We stayed in small stone “castles” with bunks three high and no air conditioning. While the heat was stifling and the chiggers were miserable, I experienced relationships, fun, and spiritual focus in significantly new and meaningful ways. Since then, I have been to youth camps in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and even at Disney World. I worked for two years at a Baptist camp in Panama and have been to Falls Creek more times than I can count. Camps have been a significant part of my life and ministry.

Now, I have the joy of watching our children and youth go to camp. So, when the opportunity to go to Falls Creek with our middle school youth came up last week, I adjusted my schedule, found the old sleeping bag, and made my way to the Arbuckles. However, I was not going as a traditional camper, sponsor, leader, or speaker. I was going as the cook! Actually, I was going as the assistant to the cook—my wife. In reality, I was the chief dishwasher and trash emptier. But still, I was going to camp!

One morning after breakfast, the youth were having their group devotion and I was in the kitchen washing dishes. Bowls were brought to “my” sink and filled with water so that our youth could experience and learn about the spiritual practice of “footwashing.” (See John 13) The old youth minister in me wanted to leave my pots and pans and join in the experience. But, I knew lunch was quickly approaching and my task needed to be completed. I resigned myself to washing dishes instead of washing feet.

Then, something significant happened. In the midst of feeling like I was missing out, it dawned on me that I was “washing feet.” Because I was washing dishes, lunch was being prepared. Because I was washing dishes, our youth and leaders were all able to learn about and experience “footwashing.” And then I remembered what Jesus said in John 13:12-15. “Do you know what I have done to you? I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

The literal washing of feet was simply the vehicle through which Jesus instructed His disciples to sacrificially serve and meet the needs of others. Did you know footwashing was considered such a lowly task in the day of Jesus that not even a Jewish slave could be required to wash the feet of another? And yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples.

Similarly, there are many lowly tasks that need to be accomplished in our homes, workplaces, churches, and communities. They are tasks that require humility for they will assuredly inconvenience, cost, and dirty us along the way. Still, Jesus bids us to take the initiative and follow His example.

Washing dishes isn’t glamorous, but at camp, it is necessary. So with hot water, soap, scrubber, and a new attitude I washed with great joy. Likewise, I invite you to seek out your opportunities of “footwashing” and practice them with the same joy and purpose I discovered at Falls Creek. Indeed, as I look around, there are many feet and dishes that need to be washed.

Tags: foot washing, upside down