Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
You feel it in your heart long before you pull into the church parking lot. Or maybe you never made it to the church parking lot or even out your front door. Either way there’s a weariness.
It’s often the little things that add up until it breaks the spirit: the little daily tasks and weekly demands, the small moral failures that sting your inner life like paper cuts, the big moral failures that remain wedged in your heart like an arrow causing a near mortal wound -- not enough to kill, but just enough to leave you in a perpetual state of bleakness.
And when it comes to church or anything in your religious life, private or public, the repetition of doing the same thing -- even if that “thing” is nothing -- every day for weeks, months, and years begins to numb your awareness of God. Your heart is in danger of losing touch with the Living Water. It’s beginning to feel like a stagnant pond that is drying out or turning into an undrinkable salt marsh.
Maybe it reached that state long ago. Your emotional life isn’t only worn out and lifeless, it is full of darkness.
But there is hope. God gave us other components in our being -- our minds, our imaginations, our spirits that came alive when His Spirit filled us -- that can take up the slack when other parts of our being, our emotions, for example, break down and become useless. It requires little inner strength to pause for a moment and let your mind’s eye imagine something. Now, with that in mind, use your imagination to picture the following:
Jesus comes to you with a towel in His hand. He’s looking at your feet, and when you look down to see what He sees, you’re surprised. Your feet are black with soot and grime. Jesus, with painstakingly labor, washes every speck off your feet until they’re as clean as a newborn’s skin. And this is not an emotional experience I’m describing -- the warm fuzzies you may or may not feel in your walk with God; this is not about feelings of any kind. This is describing reality as it exists whether or not you acknowledge it or feel it.
Jesus, through His blood, has washed you clean, and that’s how the Father sees you -- whether or not you feel it or whether you see it.
Jesus has washed the world off your feet -- even the world of darkness you’ve created for yourself.
With that truth in mind -- the cleanliness we have in Christ -- let’s shift gears a little and see our modern world the way the prophets of old described it.
The prophets of the Old Testament described the future world in the end times -- which technically have been going on since Christ ascended -- as being covered with thick darkness. This phrase “thick darkness” could certainly describe our modern world. It’s not just the moral grime, it’s the intellectual grime: the long line of secular world views opposed to Christ that have propped themselves up on tall stilts for the last few hundred years. Our modern culture, and all of its self-centered depravity, stands on the shoulders of philosophers who led the way long ago before our grandfather’s fathers were born. Each new trend of thinking in modern philosophy seems to add yet another layer of dirt and dust to the “thick darkness” that the prophets predicted.
The phrase “thick darkness” brings to mind the coal miners who emerge from a long day of work with their clothes and skin covered in pitch-black dust.
And it reminds me of the bad days of smog in the Central Valley in California where I grew up. Just before you drive down into the valley from the top of the Grapevine on the I-5, you reach the summit of the valley’s mountainous rim and look down into the vast land below: it is covered with a blanket of ashy grey smog as if a dragon had just scorched a hundred miles of earth.
With this in mind, it’s not necessarily a shock that we get burned out so easily. We take for granted how much moral and intellectual smog get pumps into our lives on a daily basis like columns of smoke rising from factories.
Even Christians who aren’t necessarily “burned out” have a rough go of it each week. The tired people empty our churches at the end of each Sunday service, and they must then wade -- with slow, tedious steps -- into the thick darkness. It is no wonder they return to us the following Sunday with layers of black silt caked all over them, their heads hanging low from discouragement, and their bodies worn out from stressful schedules and lack of rest.
They need someone to wash the world off their feet.
Jesus works more passionately on this task of scrubbing than we usually dare to imagine. Whether or not we “feel” anything in our emotions or not, we must begin with the foundational revelation that He intercedes for us night and day as our High Priest before the Father. He kneels unseen with a bucket of soapy water at the entrance to the church, scrubbing the feet of the people as they enter into God’s presence.
This article is for people who are discouraged or burned out in their spiritual lives. But like all other things in the Kingdom of Christ, the antidote is not something you consume, it is something you give. The way “out” of the mess begins by looking out beyond yourself -- first to Him and His promises based on faith (not emotion), and then to others -- and then joining Jesus in His foot washing.
For example, if you are in ministry, the more you perceive Jesus in His faithful task of scrubbing, the more blessed it is for your weary heart to join Him. Why? Because you’re keenly aware of your Savior at your elbow, working at your side until His fingers bleed to the bone, and you suddenly realize that, as your fingers bleed too, you’re a part of something more grandiose and epically important than you ever dreamed.
Even if you’re not officially a paid minister, this can be something you do with whatever influence you have over people. No matter our status or station in the Body of Christ, as foot washers we have the privilege of being like our King: the lowest of servants in the household -- the doorkeepers and the launderers; and this is our joy. When we see that we are needed -- not only by people, but by Jesus Himself in His relentless work of washing feet -- and that we can help people run to the warm Presence of the Father with freshly washed feet, it renews us. It washes the weariness from our hearts and gives us that extra little boost we need to keep pressing on through yet another week in the “thick darkness.”
Abba, please give me eyes to see the need in others to have their feet washed on Sunday mornings and at other times in my life, and please help me see how wonderful it is that You are always washing the darkness from my heart, whether or not I feel anything in my emotions. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
This article is an excerpt/entry from the devotional "Finding Jesus When You're Burned Out," which you can receive free when you subscribe to this blog: