Sunday, April 12, 2009

Washing Feet

Yesterday, I found myself talking about my mission. For those of you who have heard anything at all about my mission, you know it was fraught with crazy people, wild tales, hard work, and unbelievable events. I can entertain a whole room of people just with stories of cockroaches and animals wearing clothes and companions who cried and hid in closets and couldn't read and were deaf and are now in mental institutions....

But the part about my mission that I always forget to talk about, because it's just not as entertaining, is the part where I learned to serve and love and care for people. It's also the part where I learned the power of Jesus Christ. When I was on my mission my own personal goal was to metaphorically wash the feet of those around me. I bought a print of the painting above my first week out on my mission and kept a print of it in every apartment that I lived in as I moved to various parts of Florida.

I've had a few thoughts this morning about Jesus and Easter and religion and service.  And most of them are echoed by a friend of mine, Maithri. He is a doctor living in Australia, but traveling to Swaziland to give aid and help where he can. He truly knows all about washing of the feet. This morning I want to share his words with you.

Throughout my life I have fought not only for tolerance, but for the celebration of all faiths and belief systems. To reap the harvest of our diverse understandings of love has always seemed to me to be part of the excitement, the joy of living.

My friends are muslim and hindu, jew and pagan, atheist and agnostic. I see no belief system as exalted. No way as the 'right' way. Merely a thousand painted ways of presenting the same universal truths.

Still the stories of Jesus' love, have always spoken deeply to my heart.

I fear that his ideals of unbounded, inclusive, universal love have been warped and tortured by small fearful minds trapped within cages of literalism and spiritual arrogance.

For me, at its core, his teachings were and always have been about deep humility and non judgement.

I see him washing the feet of the poor, the outcast, the reviled. I see him walking with leper and prostitute, thief and liar. And I think to myself "I wanna love like that."

Here in Swaziland, a day feels like a year. I ride the rollercoaster of deep despair and wild gratitude and celebration for the smallest act of kindness.

This morning before I headed out to see an old grandmother who was unable to leave her bed, I saw two Swazi women talking.

One said to the other "I know you are going through such deep sorrow CiCi (sister). I will take it all to God tonight and lay it under his cross."

Jesus is dying here in Swaziland and throughout the developing world. Covered in sores and kaposi sarcoma. He is a little girl being raped by her drunken father. Two little boys who are weeping at the freshly dug grave of their mother. He is the outcast. The forgotten. The hated and unloved.

Tommorrow is Good Friday.

We have organised a meal for 50 orphans at the Makhewu carepoint. Cooking starts at 7am. The party starts at 12.

I think there are more than enough 'religious' people in the world. Enough judgement and arrogance and exclusiveness.

I dont want to be religious. I dont even want to be a Christian.

All I want to do is take a bowl of water and wash the feet of my brother, my sister in pain.

To love them.

Not because I am 'special' or 'chosen' but because we are one.

As I try to find where my religious beliefs are at this time, I find myself wanting to avoid all labels. I don't know if I'm a Christian anymore, I really don't, and that phrase seems to scare people. But I do know that I can look to Jesus as a teacher and I can embrace the powerful love that he showed to everyone, and by living a life of washing the feet of my brothers and sisters is just about the best life that you can live.


P.S. --How adorable is my little niece in her new Easter dress (that I got at Old Navy for only $10!!! ) And the headband she is wearing was found in my drawer. I bought it in Brazil from a lady who was making them on the side of the road to feed her family. You can see more photos from our Easter shoot at my photo blog.


Kristan said...

What lovely - and perfect - words.

(And yes, your niece is adorable!!)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I give Thanks that at the most basic grass roots level we have such wonderful souls as Maithri, and yourself, out there at the coal face DOING things. It inspires me to look beyond by own narrow world and participate. And your niece is adorable! I am afraid Charlie has a wee chocolate hang over this morning - Monday here in NZ. A lovely Easter wish to you.

Boquinha said...

Gorgeous! This resonates very much with our own discussions this Easter Sunday. It's been a very insightful one . . .

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Happy Easter, D'Arce! I hope you have a peaceful day. Love you! J.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

I love what your friend Maithri said....

Jesus IS the most pure and perfect love.... that's what it's all about.

And WE (the HUMAN race) are his "bride"... and one day it will all be beautiful again... the way it was intended to be.

The greatest love story of all time... and it's all unfolding in this great, huge tapestry of LIFE.

Deeptesh said...

Nice one.C my blog too.

Bethany said...

Yep...there are few contexts outside of the mission that are so real, raw, and so close to "this-is-what-it's-all-about." :) Nothing quite like it. Happy Easter my dear friend.

Torrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Torrey Jayne said...

D'Arcy, this made my heart smile. What an inspiring post.

smiles4u said...

I love hearing about this part of your mission. I love that you learned all these things first hand and not just because someone told you to. I think "religions" can try to tell us how to think and feel but it's when we get our hands and feet dirty that we personalize our beliefs.

I love the whole idea of footwashing...whether it be literally or metaphorically. When I worked with youth some years ago, we did a whole study on foot washing. I actually started out with doing a foot washing ceremony and it was a beautiful moment that I shared with young people. These young people ate this concept up. It's very humbling for the foot washer and the person having their feet washed. It was a very powerful lesson for all of us and I have never forgotten it. I also understand you wanting to metaphorically wash the feet of those around you. It is something I desire to do now but honestly, I get caught up in life and forget. I was actually just thinking about foot washing recently, and was going to write a post about it...might have to do that in the near future.

I love your friend, Maithri's words...they are beautiful and really touched me. I have had to read them a couple of times. Thank you for sharing his words with us.

Your niece looks adorable! And what a good auntie you are!

Gustav said...

Your niece is adorable.

Your reflections are valuable to me and its good to know you are in the world.