Whether you’re just starting to date, have been dating seriously for years, are engaged, or even have been married for years and years — if you’re not willing to wash their feet, you do not love them. It’s that simple. Now, I don’t mean this in the literal sense because this would get awkward really fast; but to each their own you know? I know that the statement I just made seems bold…and a lot of people are going to take offense to this, but I can’t say that I’m sorry at all.
Lets dig into what I mean when I talk about washing someone’s feet. Back in the days of Christ, the washing of the feet was meant as an act of self-service. This was an act even beneath that of Jewish slaves. So, to put that into perspective, lets look at when Jesus Christ himself washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord of creation, who was at the end of his life, stopped before dinner and washed his disciples feet. An act not even reserved for the lowliest of slaves. Take that in for just a second. In my last piece I talked about “servant leadership”. This is the epitome of what it means to serve others down to the core.
Are the gears starting to turn yet? So what do I mean by saying “washing the feet” of your significant other? I’m not telling you that getting a bucket on your hands an knees would actually be recommended; because that would probably get awkward really fast. Even for someone like me who’s been in a relationship going on five years. But hey, to each their own. What I mean when I say “washing their feet” is ultimately serving them. And unfortunately, we get the meaning of serving twisted up these days.
What do I mean by serving them? I don’t mean making a sweet post about them. Making them your #MCM or #WCW. I don’t mean buying them stuff. I don’t mean sending them out to get a mani/pedi session either. We have absolutely misconstrued the meaning of serving our significant others. We do this because we are selfish by nature. We think that “serving” them means giving them something or posting something about them because from that we are the ones who also receive gratification. We post something sweet, we get likes and comments and a post in return. We get them a tangible gift, we get one in return (and sadly, in more manipulative situations, people use this to get a physical pay back). When those become our versions of “serving” our lovers, we lose that unconditional love that is intended to bind us together. What we think of as serving ultimately becomes a “tit for tat” competition that we hold when the resentment starts to set in. We start to do things so that we can up our score against them or so that I can use it against them later in an argument. We turn serving them into serving ourselves. This also plays into the pitfalls of servant leadership that I talked about in my last piece. I think Jefferson Bethke said it best: “If our dollars were honest they’d say ‘in pleasure we trust’”.
Serving your loved one goes far beyond anything as silly and simple as buying things for them or posting about them on social media. Serving them means putting them first. Lead them with grace and unconditional love. This means that you will have to do something that many people have a problem doing; and that is putting yourself on the back burner. You are not even an option here. Show them support in whatever it is that they’re doing. I mean think about it, how many arguments have you all gotten into because either you work too much, or they work too much? I am in the military, and there are some times that I work for weeks straight. My girlfriend lives over 120 miles away and not only does she go to college where she takes just about 19 credit hours in classes, and she has a part-time job, and she does volunteer work. Sometimes it seems that we only find time to spend together when the planets and the stars line up perfectly. Have we fought about that? Endlessly sometimes. But when I take a step back and cool down, I have to go back to washing her feet. To serving her, leading her with grace.
Sometimes my biggest service to her is to just stay out of the way while she does her thing. Sometimes she legitimately doesn’t have time to talk to me. Sometimes she just wants to be left alone and have some time to catch up on sleep and study and lesson plans. At times, my biggest service to her is to just stay out of the way, but be there to support her. Sometimes, my biggest service to her is to be there to listen to her vent about class or about work, and even to listen to how awesome her volunteer activity was.
They teach you that relationships should be 50/50…I don’t believe that. I think relationships should be 100/100. And sometimes, serving your significant other means giving that 100 when they can’t give theirs. You don’t do things to get something out of it…IF you love them, you do it just to do it because you love them and that’s it.
A perfect example of exchanges in leadership within a relationship goes to my parents. More specifically at the death of my brother. The loss of a child is something that absolutely shatters the soul of a parent. In this case, my parents lost their first-born son, who bared my father’s name. The week days following the death of Russell before the funeral, my dad slipped into a self purgatory. I remember specifically him trying to get the whole house cleaned and getting the pantry stocked. My mom kept telling him to stop and to relax and he kept going (because that’s who he is, he cares for his guests). He kept cleaning and crying. I specifically remember my mom grabbing him by the shoulders, looking him in they eye and saying “Russ, OUR son was killed. I am not worried about how clean the house is and neither should anyone else! We need to be here for each other!” as she collapsed into him and began to cry. My mom has always done a good job of being the epicenter of our family during times of trouble and chaos.
But the exchange in leadership came on the day of the funeral. My dad got up, put on his best suit, took a shower and shaved. My mom stayed in bed. He asked her what she was doing and she just cried and said she didn’t want to do this. She didn’t want to go. My dad got level with her and said “Our son is receiving the highest honor of his life today. We have to be there. This is about our boy. Now get up and get ready.” For the people who know my dad, this is completely out of character for both he and my mom. This situation would crush a relationship that didn’t have a strong foundation..not them. They lead each other with grace and they served each other. But for the rest of us, it shouldn’t take an Earth-shattering moment like that to do these things. And it didn’t for them, they’ve had a lot of practice in this stuff.
The other part of this service that we get wrong is when we try to control them. I keep saying the phrase “leading with grace” over and over. This is something that we don’t even get wrong in relationships today…we just don’t do it at all. There isn’t just one leader in the relationship; no matter if you’re heterosexual or homosexual…gender doesn’t and shouldn’t play a role in the leadership of a situation. Nor should who makes the most money or who pays the bills if that’s your situation. You need to lead each other. There’s only one leader who I know of who never needed anyone to lead them…and that’s God. What we tend to get wrong here, is the difference between leading and controlling. When you lead the person you love, it should be down a path that makes both of you mutually successful. It shouldn’t be about all of your stupid insecurities and keeping your significant other trapped so you can move comfy cozy circles around the real problem which is the fact that you probably shouldn’t be together. Leading with grace isn’t demanding passwords or phone message checks. Leading with grace isn’t giving them ultimatums and boundaries that they have to live by. The difference between Leading with grace and controlling is the same difference between covenant v.s. contract.
Now, by standard American definitions, contract and covenant are almost the exact same verbatim. But lets look into the differences. A covenant is a joining together of two equals in an agreement. In this case, the agreement is to love one another unconditionally, for rich or for poor, for better or for worse, until death do us part. A contract is a legally binding agreement between two people (not always equals) that yields consequence (usually serious) if it is broken. There is no physical consequence if a covenant is broken…if any consequence occurs at all it’s usually an emotional one. I mean, as the human race we have broken our part of the covenant with God more times than I can count…and we still do and probably always will. Do we get struck by lightning? Do we get swallowed up by a sinkhole portal to hell? Nope. God simply renews it and renews it and pursues us endlessly.
The same should…should hold true for our relationships with our significant others. Our marriages have been turned into legal binding contracts with prenups and lawsuits if something bad happens. We go into it with the mindset that “if it doesn’t work out we’ll just get a divorce/break up.” And that is a sorry way of thinking. Mistakes will happen in a relationship. But if we truly truly love that person the way our social media claims we do, then we will constantly pursue them and lead them with grace. We will meet 100/100. We will serve one another. And we will wash their feet.
So, do you wash their feet? Do you lead them with grace (or at least try to)? Or do you control them? Are you more concerned with what you get out of it? I hope this causes some of you to really truly reach deep down and start to think and reflect. Jesus Christ washes our feet daily, and even hourly. We don’t deserve his service. He pursues us no matter the cost. He is scandalous like that. Why are we not doing the same thing with our significant others? God created marriage…it was the first institution even before the Church. We didn’t invent relationships or marriages or even covenants. He did. He even shows us how to conduct ourselves in such. So wash their feet. If you don’t…then you DO NOT LOVE THEM.