I’ve learned a little something about parenting a preschooler: there is always some kind of liquid on the floor.
Maybe water because you splashed the sink full of legos when you were supposed to be washing your hands. Maybe juice, because who doesn’t carry juice to go potty? You can’t set that stuff down, it must be carried throughout the house and the cup must be lid-free. Maybe (usually) the liquid on the floor is pee. Because, boys.
I’ve come to terms with the wet floors in my house. So, I was surprised by my almost four-year old in the bathroom screaming at the top of his lungs, “MOM!! Come quick, it’s a ‘mergency!”
The ‘mergency was that he became distracted while standing at the potty. What was supposed to go in, went everywhere but in. ALL over the floor, his clothes and his feet. We are a tad bit high drama around here, so with fair warning that this was an emergency, he began to weep. My job was clear: calm, wipe, flush, wipe, then scoop him up.
“My feet, mama! What will we do?!?” (I have no idea where he gets his flair for the dramatic)
“Freeze!” I said. He froze in place.
I scooped him up, ran some warm water in the sink and plopped his pee-covered feet into the sink. His tears became laughter as I tickled his dirty, little toes with soap.
“Mama, we are just like the story!”
I wasn’t following.
“You are like Jesus, and you’re washing my feet ‘cause I’m the disciple.”
Lord, in your mercy. Hear my prayers.
He remembered the story, and recognized it there between us.
I was not feeling very Jesus-like. The repetitive motions of wiping, fixing, soothing, folding, hearing, stirring and holding do not always feel like holy work. The postures of bending next to a toilet, reaching under the backseat for a lost toy, or taking a deep breath before an impatient word feel more like the activity of a tired mama than Christ.
To me, this work can feel exhausting. To my child, this work is what love feels like.
The ways I tend to his needs, listen, laugh with him, nurture his abilities and offer a model of living are the ways he will know love. The ways he knows love are the ways he will know Christ.
I washed his feet because it needed to be done. He needed actual, physical care and the best fix I had was to plop him in the sink. I believe that is what we are saying when we talk about being Christ to others. I just needed to remember that my “others” are also the people in my home. My beloveds, my darlings, the ones I would give my last breath for and the same ones who leave annoying messes all over the house – these are the people who can see the picture of Christ that I offer.
If I want my son to recognize himself as a disciple, I need to be mindful of how he pays attention when I am washing his feet. And brushing his teeth, fixing his plate, folding his clothes and listening to his stories. He pays attention when we look the grocery cashier in the eye and when we shake hands with the elderly lady from church.
He learns the story and sees how it plays out in our lives.