Expect Dragons (in which I leverage the lessons of certain dead British authors)

Sketch by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Art of The Hobbit)
Sketch by J.R.R. Tolkien from The Art of The Hobbit

**In my ongoing quest to leverage my love for dead British authors (whose writings continue to be long-lasting and meaningful) in the realm of life and ministry (which on occasion runs the risk of being short-lived and shallow), I have compiled:

Seven Principles for a Lasting and Meaningful Ministry, also applicable to Life and other Meaningful Endeavors, based on the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton, authors now long-dead but whose Devout Embrace of Christ lives still in various and sundry essays, tales, poems, letters, and diaries. MMXV.

PRINCIPLE #4: EXPECT DRAGONS

“As you like,” said Chrysophylax, licking his lips again, but pretending to close his eyes. He had a very wicked heart (as dragons all have), but not a very bold one (as is not unusual).
–from “Farmer Giles of Ham,” J.R.R. Tolkien

But perhaps if he had known something about dragons he would have been a little surprised at this dragon’s behaviour. Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.
–from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
–from “The Red Angel” in Tremendous Trifles, G.K Chesterton

Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain . . .
If we perish in the seeking . . . why, how small a thing is death!
–from “Desdichado” in Catholic Tales and Christian Songs, Dorothy Sayers

So, here’s the thing about dragons: they are hands down, entirely, thoroughly, exceptionally, and superlatively bad, wicked, evil, nasty, foul, no-good little stinkers. Period.

Except here. Except now.

Our sophisticatedly nuanced world offers us dragon riders, dragon trainers, and dragon fighter-pilots. Nothing against these tales or their authors (Naomi Novick’s series about draconian aerial warfare during the Napoleonic wars is supremely delightful), but this recent domestication of dragons portends something infinitely more perilous.

On the one hand, we fail (or refuse) to recognize dragons for what they really are, convinced that if we just handle them gently enough, feed them plenty of tasty bits, and cajole them with sweet songs, they will somehow cease to be dragons — as though we have the power and the wisdom to be undragoners.

On the other hand, having lost sight of real dragons, we now see dragons everywhere, squinting our eyes crooked-like and viewing things from inverted angles until – beware! – every kitten, tree, and cloud is branded a dragon — as though we have the capacity and the discernment to be dragonlords.

We surely do hate dragons . . . especially if they are of our own imagining.

We surely do love dragons . . . even if they threaten our very soul.

And by they, I meant it.

Sin. Self-enthronement. Me-centricity. I-fullness. God-emptiness.

It is a dangerous path we tread when we forget that Christ died because of dragons and instead focus our undivided attention on kittens, trees, or clouds, as though they endanger our very existence.

It is a perilous turn we take when we neither recognize nor admit the power of dragons, and instead head off into the forest with a knapsack of jelly sandwiches and a flapping paper shield, as though life were naught but a make-believe quest.

Dragons are. We ignore and forget this at the cost of our ministries and our lives.

But– Christ is. Christ will be. Christ forevermore. We live and minister within that brilliant truth, regardless of the cost.

Expect dragons, dear friends, and then prepare to willingly see them slain.

© Crystal Kirgiss 2015

People worth knowing (in which I consider the active obedience of YoungLives childcare workers and Young Life work staff)

In a world full of bad news, broken lives, battered souls, and bruised hopes, there are still plenty of reasons to rejoice and be glad. Here are 80:

Childcare Workers: Young Lives Camp 2014 TWL (Photo: MKirgiss)
Childcare Workers: Young Lives Camp 2014 TWL (Photo: MKirgiss)

In July 2014, these people paid their way to a week of camp (which they also paid for) to watch the babies and toddlers of over 100 young mothers. Some drove an hour. Some drove a day. Some flew a ways. Some flew more than halfway across the country. All spent 6 days cuddling, cradling, strolling, rocking, soothing, reading, playing, singing, and all manner of actively humble and obedient things in order to love beautiful, wondrous, and miraculous living souls so that those souls’ mothers could live and laugh and play like other teenage girls.

While that group of people was taking care of the babies, these people were taking care of everything else:

TWL July 2014 Workstaff (Photo: CKirgiss)
TWL July 2014 Workstaff (Photo: CKirgiss)

The baking, the cooking, the setting, the serving, the clearing, the cleaning, the washing, the folding, the mowing, the raking, the weeding, the wiping, the working, the lifting, the hauling, the carrying … if it was a task of any sort, then these people did it. Over and over and over again. For a month. Without pay. Because Jesus has done something beautiful deep down inside their hearts.

These two groups of people – plus so many more all across the world, at all manner of camps and schools and centers and businesses and homes –  are who we should be reading about in the news. They are the ones who should be held up as the model of humanity, as the picture of humility, as the image of community, as the example of possibility.

All of the world’s bad news needs an antidote of good news. The cult of celebrity needs an equal measure of homage to humility. The buzz of headlines needs a revised tune of faithful daily living.

For just a moment, let’s stop and collectively consider the amazing wonder of such mundane and quiet things as integrity, hard work, faithfulness, honor, commitment, contentment, service, and sacrifice.

And Love. Love that comes first from God and – if we allow it – then spills over onto those around us. Onto young mothers. Onto babies and children. Onto co-workers and campers of all ages. Onto colleagues and neighbors and family and friends.

It’s a wonder, really, that such Love manages to pierce the hate-filled darkness of the world. But pierce it, it does, sometimes in large swaths of a brilliantly blinding light and sometimes in small pinpricks of a persistently gentle glow.

We are all, each one of us, invited into this piercing Love – both as a recipient and as a conduit. The people in these pictures have experienced both. The people in these pictures have been changed by Christ. The people in these pictures have helped change the world – not by their own might or power (which is the stuff of temporal headline news) but rather by humbly surrendering to the Only Almighty and Powerful One (which is the stuff of eternal selfless being).

We would do well to seek out such people. We would do well to know such people. We would do well to be such people.

Psalm 23 for Young Lives camp (in which I consider how childcare workers reflect the character of God)

Precious Young Lives childcare worker (Photo: CKirgiss)
Precious Young Lives childcare worker (Photo: CKirgiss)

[If a shepherd can reflect and illuminate the character of God, then surely a Young Lives childcare worker can too.]

Psalm 23 (repurposed) –

The LORD is my childcare worker, I lack nothing.
He travels from far away at his own expense to spend time caring for me.
He helps comfort me when I am separated from those I love.
He holds me near his heart where I can hear his love beat strongly.
He rocks me to sleep when I am tired while cradling me in his gentle arms.
He patiently listens to my sobs and never tells me to “just get over it” or “stop that now” or “quit being such a baby!”
He keeps careful track of when I need to eat and sleep and makes sure they happen.
He checks the weather and dresses me appropriately.
He cleans up my messes – no matter how horrid – with a gracious and humble attitude.
He holds me tightly and safely while we ride on a flatbed trailer through the countryside.
He strolls me up and down the sidewalk so I can breathe fresh air and see the beautiful creation.
He takes care of me faithfully and joyfully, as though I were his own child or grandchild.
He laughs at my silliness and encourages my attempts to learn new things.
He makes me feel safe as I experience things that are not part of my daily life.
He welcomes me sincerely and enthusiastically each and every day.
He expresses joy and excitement and grace when I recognize him and hold out my arms to be held.
He makes me feel loved and safe, each and every moment of each and every day.
He does many unexpected and fun things to make me smile and laugh.
When I reject his care and love, he is disappointed and hurt, but he does not reject me in return.
He is available all the time to provide whatever I need without asking for anything in return.
He is wise. He is loving. He is comforting. He is humble.
Amen.

 

Of rodeos, carnivals, and Young Lives (in which I consider why we do what we do)

In the Young Life camping lexicon, tonight is traditionally called The Night That Never Ends.

In the Young Lives world, The Night That Never Ends does in fact end. Usually by about 10:30. Because, well, the babies.

But still – it is a very long day (though not the longest, for in the Young Lives camping lexicon we have something called The Day That Never Ends, aka SPA DAY which is exactly what it sounds like, so go ahead and be jealous).

Pulling off The Night That Never Ends week after week after week is A Thing Neither Quick Nor Easy. And more than once at least a few people are likely to wonder whether all the work is really worth it.

There are the gravelly rodeo paths to navigate with all those strollers:

Rodeo Road: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: MEmerick)
Rodeo Road: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: MEmerick)

There are all the costumes to gather and don:

Here there be cowboys: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: MEmerick)
Here there be cowboys: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: MEmerick)

And then there is a carnival to set up – in silence, in darkness, in 30 minutes flat – while campers are otherwise occupied:

Here there are party lights: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)
Here there are party lights: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)

And there is cotton candy to spin. And funnel cakes to dust with sugar. And ice-cream sundaes to scoop and serve. And during all of that, all those babies to be cared for and cuddled and loved and held.

I don’t suppose there is anyone who more deserves a personal rodeo and carnival than a group of young mothers who spend their days caring for a young human being who is entirely dependent upon them. Personal rodeos and carnivals aren’t come by just like that. You can’t order them online or download them as an app.

But here, there are rodeos. And costumes. And carnivals. And a whole lot of state-fair-type food.

And because of almost 100 childcare workers, there are several hours in this Night That Never Ends (But Really Does Because, You Know, The Babies) during which over 100 young mothers can laugh and play like children.

We believe rodeos and costumes and carnivals and state-fair food are worth every ounce of effort because they translate thus: All of this for you. And you are worth all of it. 

And it’s true: every young mama and baby here is worth every single ounce of energy and effort and love that is expended, and so much more than that. For just like everyone else that has ever lived, God knit each one of them together before they were born, he knew and loved them before they were conceived, and he came and died for them before they’d ever heard his name.

All of this crazy nonsense on The Night That Never (But Really Does) End is just a tiny overflow of something deeper, richer, wider, higher, and more magnificent than any one of us can ever truly understand. But if rodeos and costumes and carnivals and state-fair food that are presented with excellence and a joyful smile can reflect even just a sliver of that overflow, then we will have done today’s job well.

That is why we do what we do, and it’s an amazing why to be sure.

Here we love babies and mamas (in which I consider Young Lives Camp Day 1)

Six hours. That is how long this sacred space in the netherlands of Michigan has become even more sacred because, well, mamas and babies, of course. Over 100 of each.

Not everyone understands why there is so much love here for young mothers and their children. Not everyone understands why a bunch of teenagers have given up a month of their summer to work for free doing things like taking several hours each day setting beautiful tables for these mothers and babies, tables that have real linens, proper place-settings, polished high-chairs, toddler cups with bendy straws, and a full pack of baby wipes…

Young Lives pre-dinner table (Photo: CKirgiss)
Young Lives pre-dinner table (Photo: CKirgiss)

…even though it will take only about 15 minutes of dinner activity for the table to look like this…

Young Lives post-dinner table (Photo: CKirgiss)
Young Lives post-dinner table (Photo: CKirgiss)

…and for the floor to look like this…

Young Lives post-dinner floor (Photo: CKirgiss)
Young Lives post-dinner floor (Photo: CKirgiss)

…which is a wondrous tapestry of broccoli, rice, chicken, salad, bread, juicy puddles, and a mama’s pair of sunglasses.

Indeed: even if the mealtime experience weren’t such an adventure in patience and grace, still not everyone understands why this week of loving teen moms and their babies is such a very, very big deal.

This is why: because, well, mamas and babies. Isn’t it obvious?

Mama and babe. Mother and child. A whole crowd of them. What could be more wondrous and sacred, especially for a child of God and follower of Christ?

For you see: the LORD loves children, so much that he carefully and purposefully knits them together while still in the womb. He warmly welcomes them, even when his friends and followers try to push them aside for being too young, too noisy, too distracting, and too much trouble. He considers them precious enough to be the incarnated identity of himself. God Almighty. Creator of all. A babe. A babe! Why do we love babies? Why indeed.

And the LORD loves mothers, so much that he himself is often described in those terms. He is like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young (Dt. 32: 11). He comforts his children as a mother comforts her child (Is. 66:13). He gives birth to the dew and the frost from heaven; he is the mother of the ice (Job 38:28-29). And then there is this: he entered the world as a helpless babe, not formed directly from the dust of the ground, but rather ushered into life out from the womb of a mother, a living breathing flesh-and-blood human mother. And this: when shepherds and Kings met the Messiah of the world, they met him  not as a king surrounded by advisors and subjects but as a babe with his mother. And this – oh, do not forget this: when he hung on the cross, preparing to breath his last breath, he yelled out to his friend, “My mother…do not forget my mother! Take care of her as if she were your own! Because I love her!”

We love mothers and babies here at Young Lives camp because God loves mothers and babies, and we are commanded to love as he does. Really, that’s all there is to it. That’s all there is because that’s everything there is. God’s love is everything. And we want in on it, not just for ourselves but to share it with others so they can be in on it, too. That’s it. That’s the whole story.

Not everyone understands. I get it. But God does amazing things anyway – and this week is going to be full of those amazing things indeed because, well, mamas and babies, and more importantly a God who loves them beyond what any of us will ever understand.

Mother and child: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)
Mother and child: Young Lives TWL 2014 (Photo: CKirgiss)

 

 

 

The amazingness known as Young Lives (in which I consider why we are all a-flutter on Day 0)

Tomorrow, 100+ teen moms and their collective 100+ babes, plus 70 or so mentors, will descend on a place in northern Michigan that really doesn’t matter much (there are, after all, lots of beautiful places in the world) except for the fact that it has been consecrated for the Lord’s work. And His work this week is to really truly fully love a population that doesn’t always get loved that way.

Tomorrow is known as Day 1 in camp speak. Which makes today Day 0. Which means today, 84 childcare workers arrive – people aged 16 to 70-something, who pay for a full week of camp in order to love and care for a young mama’s baby for 6 days so the mama herself can be a teenager.

It blows me away every single time I see it happen because, well, 100+ babies and teen moms.

In 24 hours, a thousand things need to get done. Strollers to be lined up. Highchairs to be hosed down. Toys to be sterilized. Nurseries to be organized, stocked, and set up. Carpets to be cleaned. Supplies and clothing and more supplies and clothing to be sorted. Prayer spaces to be created. And that doesn’t include all the other things that need to happen for any other week of camp – cleaning, mowing, prepping, straightening, beautifying, and also maybe a bit of resting.

Today all of this happened (plus so much more):

Work crew delivering strollers (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work crew delivering strollers (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew cleaning high chairs (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew cleaning high chairs (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Staff delivering supplies (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Staff delivering equipment (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Staff sorting equipment (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Staff sorting equipment (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew clearing prayer space (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew clearing prayer space (Photo: CKirgiss)

…so that this could exist (and so much more):

Strollers ready for riders (Photo: CKirgiss)
Strollers ready for riders (Photo: CKirgiss)
Young Lives Prayer Tent (near frisbee golf hole #6) (Photo: CKirgiss)
Young Lives Prayer Tent (near frisbee golf hole #6) (Photo: CKirgiss)

And with only 30 minutes until childcare workers arrived, this was happening:

Property and Work Staff prepping sod (Photo: CKirgiss)
Property and Work Staff prepping sod (Photo: CKirgiss)

…because every minute is useful when you are prepping for tomorrow’s arrival of mamas and babies and today’s arrival of childcare workers, who were greeted just as if they were a busload of teenage campers (though they were maybe only 1 or 2 cars of 2 of 4 people)…

A warm Young Life welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)
A warm Young Life welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)

…and whose suitcases were carried, even if they were just one person rather than a full cabin of campers:

Work Crew helping with luggage (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew helping with luggage (Photo: CKirgiss)

Humility is a strange thing. It is active. It is visible. It is real. It is earth-shattering.

But mostly, it is obedient – obedient to a Father who loves us so deeply that the only possible response is to love and obey in return. We so often do these two things, loving and obeying, poorly. I pray that this week, we do them well. Not because we are awesome (oh gracious, we are not); not because we want to be noticed (please Lord, protect our hearts against such desires); not because they are the magic cures to a life of difficult trials and problems (love and obedience just as often invite their own trials and problem).

I pray that this week we do them (loving and obeying well) just because we should. Just because God told us to. Just because that is what we are commanded to do. That is reason enough. More than enough. No matter what the situation. But especially when 100+ teen moms and their babies are going to be arriving soon. Oh yes – especially then.

Life after camp (in which I consider the folly of huddling behind closed doors)

Behind closed doors (Photo: CKirgiss)
Behind closed doors (Photo: CKirgiss)

We are all home now, 50ish or so folk who lived at camp for a month doing this and that, serving (as genuinely as we could) with humility, living (as graciously as we could) in community, laughing (as deeply as we could) for joy, loving (as best we could) as Jesus loved.

It’s not hard to do these things at camp, alongside 50ish or so other folk who are doing the same thing, when the schedule is built around such things and the activities are geared to such things and the atmosphere spills over with such things.

But home – well, home is another matter entirely. Home is here (not there). Home is mundane (not magnificent). Home is dull (not wondrous). Home is . . .  not camp. As such, “home” carries with it a whole host of assumptions that, if allowed, might drag us down. Needlessly. Tragically.

How will we ever survive without our 50ish or so fellow workers and friends? How will we ever stay true without daily times of communal prayer, study, and worship? How will we ever thrive without constant encouragement and challenge? How, indeed?

I suspect that after camp, or any similar ministry-minded experience, many people do as the disciples did on the evening of the third day: they huddle behind locked doors because they are afraid of all that lurks outside. Whatever will we do? However will we cope?

This is how:

We will raise our eyes up from the dusty ground where they gaze in worry and fear and instead focus them on Jesus who stands right here among us, behind the locked doors of life.

We will stop listening to voices of worry and fear that bombard our ears and hearts and instead listen to the words of Jesus who speaks peace and comfort and truth.

We will recognize the worry and fear for what it really is – an excuse to hide behind locked doors rather than live a life of daring faith – and will instead follow Jesus who is here with us now and who stays with us always and who goes with us to wherever he sends us.

It is easy to huddle behind a locked door. In truth, much of our huddling behind locked doors is not really about hiding from the world. Rather, it is about hiding from Jesus and from the life to which he has called us. If we huddle here, where no one can see or challenge or exhort us, then we are free to do whatever we want, or nothing at all . . . which means, of course, that we are nothing more than captive to ourselves.

To all who are tempted to hide away, to huddle, to fret, to worry, and to lament the end of a powerfully beautiful ministry community experience, remember this – Jesus quietly but surely explodes into that huddling space, wherever it may be, and both speaks peace into our lives and breathes the Holy Spirit into our souls.

He did. He does. He will.

That Sunday evening, the disciples were hiding behind locked doors because they were afraid…suddenly Jesus was standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Again he said, “Peace be with you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (from John 20)

 

 

“We clap our hands! We rustle in praise!” (in which I consider the trees of field and forest – and also camp)

[Here I muse about life-at-large while being here-at-camp.]

camp /kamp/
noun
1. here; this place
2. where claps of joy and rustles of praise endure forever

Here we have community. Here we worship. Here we serve. Here we grow. Here we see God at work. Here we feel Jesus’ love. Here we taste the Spirit’s power.

Here there is grace abounding.

And also there, “there” being every place that is not here.

Camp does not have exclusive rights to community, worship, and growth. Camp does not have a corner on God’s work, Jesus’ love, and the Spirit’s power. Camp does not serve as the sole epicenter of the Divine Presence.

Rather, camp brings those things into sharp relief. Camp focuses our attention on what is always present. Camp directs our heart and mind to things of eternal reality. Camp unleashes the joy that we oft reject. Camp spills over with reminders of the ever-here ever-true God.

For that, we are grateful and blessed.

But if we do not take home with us the focused attention, eternal perspective, overflowing joy, and knowledge of the ever-here ever-true God, then we will have lost what cannot be measured. We will be less faithful followers of Jesus than the trees of the field and forest.

Dear Lord: let us clap for joy and rustle for praise, today and always, here and everywhere. Let us be more fully alive than trees of the field and forest. Let us live, in every way and place and moment, as your beloved children.

(Hear our prayer.)

Clap your hands! Rustle with joy! (Photo: CKirgiss)
Clap your hands! Rustle with joy! (Photo: CKirgiss)

You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! (Isaiah 55:12)

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord, for he is coming!” (Psalm 96:11-13)

 

Infinite love (in which I consider immeasurable grace and mercy)

[Musings from the world of summer camp.]

Day 5 it is. Day last. The day 350+ middle schoolers clamber onto busses and pile into vans to head homeward, away from a place that (dear God, this is our prayer) has breathed love, peace, joy, and ridiculous amounts of fun, minute by minute, hour by hour, day in and day out.

It is always hard to say goodbye. Five days, you see, is long enough to connect, to care, to know, and to love.

If we – who have spent such a short amount of time with them – can feel this way, how must the people in their daily lives feel about them? More importantly, how must the Creator of the Universe, the Almighty God, the Loving Father feel?

That is the real question, isn’t it? What does God Almighty think of humanity? Think of that guy? Think of that girl? Think of them? Think of me??

Regardless of how advanced our theories are, how far our science has progressed, how instantaneously our technology connects, there are things we cannot know about God. Because he is God. Almighty. Omnipotent. Majestic.

Butthere is this that can be known, without a doubt, with confident joy:

God Almighty, the Omnipotent Creator, the Majestic Lord…LOVES. Period. Loves unto his own incarnated death. Loves beyond his own divine resurrection. Loves through times of pain. Loves in places of brokenness.

God Almighty – breathtaking Creator of a breathtaking universe – finds us…finds him…finds her…finds them…finds me

…breathtaking. Simply and utterly and totally breathtaking. Period.

Which means he loves enough to rescue, to save, to offer real life, and to make all things new. And he does, indeed, make things new for those who choose to follow him, even the lives of middle-schoolers. Especially the lives of middle-schoolers.

BUT – and this is so very important – his love is not restricted to only those who love him in return. His love is not limited to only those who call him Father. His love is not poured out on only those who seek his face.

This much we know of God, this much we believe, this much we profess, this much we embrace:

His love is for all, those who want to be made new and those who do not. Those who confess him as Lord, and those who do not. Those who follow him closely, and those who do not. Indeed, he patiently, longingly, faithfully, and passionately waits for all, seeks all, and pursues all. Period.

We can only marvel: what wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul?

Middle schoolers. Made new. (Photo: CKirgiss)
Middle schoolers. Made new. (Photo: CKirgiss)

 

 

Ohhhhh, we’re halfway there… (in which I consider how to serve well to the very end)

[Musings from the middle school camping front.]

Humility in action
Humility in action

The story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet has lately made itself at home in my soul where it continues to sink itself down deeply and stir things up unexpectedly. (You can read previous foot-washing thoughts here where I suggest that the story isn’t about actual foot washing at all.)

On the direct ministry front, we are today halfway through our camp assignment. That is, there is at least as much work still to do as has already been done. Perhaps more. I love camp. We all love camp. And middle-schoolers – oh how we do love them. There is no lack of love here for either the setting or the subjects.

Still, there is a hint of weariness. Camp life is exhausting. In every way.

So it would seem logical to rally our collective selves by calling out for more energy! more joy! more enthusiasm! more love!

And while all of those things are good, I think there is one thing only that will carry us from this midpoint to the finish line: humility. Active humility. The kind of humility that Jesus displayed when he washed his disciples’ feet.

That he was the one to do the washing – to stoop, to pour, to rinse, to dry – should change how we live. In every way.

As a human being, he was clearly the only one there who had a right to expect and demand that someone else be the foot washer. He was the leader. The rabbi. The teacher. And there is also this: “The Father had given him authority over everything” (John 13:3).

As God incarnate, he was obviously the only one there who had a right to expect and demand that someone else be the foot washer. He had come from God. He would return to God. He was with God. He was God.

What else does a fully man/fully God guy need to do to get his feet washed?

And let’s not forget that on a previous occasion, he had turned foot-washing water into superb wine. That a water-into-wine man should also be a water-onto-feet God speaks volumes about the one true Lord Almighty.

Jesus’ humility is overwhelming. And it is one of the final lessons he leaves with his disciples: no one is too good to be the foot-washer. When Jesus washed those dusty, dirty, calloused, worn, smelly, stinky feet, he was demonstrating the epitome of humble obedience and obedient humility.

The disciples may not have disobeyed outright when they – not a single one of them – did not offer to wash the others’ feetBut not disobeying is not necessarily the same thing as obeying.

And the disciples may not have displayed excessive pride by pointing to each other and saying, “You do it.” “No, you do it.” “NO, you do it!” But not displaying pride is not necessarily the same thing as being humble. (As proof of that, Luke tells us that the disciples argued among themselves about who would be the greatest among them…after Jesus had already washed their feet.)

Washing someone else’s feet (metaphorically) is not the stuff of headlines. It is not the stuff of blogs or ‘grams or tweets. It’s not even the stuff of the Synoptic Gospels. Only John – many, many years after the fact – recognized the significance of what had taken place and recorded it so that we might learn.

Here, at the midpoint of camp – and really every other day of life – there is only one thing that will position us to live well: the humility of Christ. And not just the humility that willingly washes the feet (metaphorically) of campers (or parishioners or employees or subordinates or whatever) but rather the humility that willingly washes the feet of our fellow workers.

For here is a difficult truth: It is easy to serve campers. It is much harder to serve those who serve alongside us.

If we cannot foot-wash with and among and towards our fellow workers with a genuinely humble heart, we will not be able to foot-wash with and among and towards anyone else. Ever.

And if we do not know our true identity (infinitely loved and undeservedly redeemed child of God), if we have not grasped our clear purpose (to be salt, light, and the sweet fragrance of Christ), and if we do not have an eternal perspective (I will work not just for the here-and-now but for all that lies beyond my final breath on earth), we will never be able to get up from the table, wrap a towel around our waist, pour water into a basin, and begin to wash all the feet that need washing.

This is the Jesus we follow. This is the example he set. This is the task we have. Lord, grant us the grace we so desperately need in order to live as we should.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table… (John 13:3, NLT)