After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13:5
Something menacing and invisible has been creeping through this family, probably brought into our haven by a small-ish boy who–and please tell me if you know why–was chewing on library books.
I knew I shouldn’t have gone to the library in January, but we had remained healthy through the holidays, and I had gotten smug. Besides, I justified to my man, how can we hold up our heads in homeschool society if our library cards aren’t worn clear through?
He didn’t say no, but I knew he was thinking it, and I should have listened, should have obeyed.
But I didn’t, and the invisible menace creeped in.
To fully appreciate the depth of my man’s subsequent actions, you must understand that he is repulsed by body fluids. With the possible exception of a small amount of “baby mustard” from a nursing baby–his own baby, mind you–he prefers to leave the damper side of parenting to me.
So when the first of the victims–the book-biter–began erupting, followed shortly by four siblings, I set to work scrubbing and bathing and wiping and disinfecting. It’s what mothers do.
It’s what fathers do, too. While I bathed sick children, he stripped beds, scrubbed carpets, removed sofa upholstery for washing, bagged up stuffed “friends” caught in the line of fire, and did remarkable things with vinegar. He even gently held back masses of hair on sick girls and dried wet chins and damp eyes. Apart from a bit of initial mumbling about libraries, snot-nosed kids, irresponsible parents, and the surface-life of certain bacteria, there was no I-told-you-so.
We make a great team!
But two nights ago, our team was cut in half. It was my turn to go down, and I took the baby with me. I usually skirt the edges of sickness, dangling my toe in now and then, but I almost never dive into its throes with the rest of the family. Almost never.
By the second night in the grip of the bug, I was barely recognizable as the bride my man carried over the threshold of the rinky-dink apartment we called home fourteen years ago. My hair, my face, my eyes, my ragged excuse for pajamas–I was a vision. And I smelled even worse. The baby only missed me two out of the six times she vomited, and the lingering scent was only mildly subdued by the baby wipes I called a shower.
Touched with the bug himself, my man nevertheless took pity on my sorry state. With the children as capable and willing helpers, he tended my needs, dabbled with the laundry, spent time in the kitchen with the girls, ventured to the grocery store, and quietly washed baby vomit number five off his arms.
I slept on the couch that second night, selfishly not wanting to be disturbed by the midnight needs of the small-ish book-biting boy that shares our bedroom. It wasn’t long before I stumbled to the nearest bathroom and briefly wondered, in my state of weakness, if the floor wasn’t close enough.
A pragmatic child, jolted from her sleep by my not entirely noiseless trial, retrieved Daddy from his own deep and well-earned rest and reported my condition. He found his shell of a wife in a condition that likely inspired the “for worse” segment of the marriage vow.
I mumbled my apologies, but he shushed them away. He was there to help. He was in the realm where he least wanted to be, and he was there willingly. I went back to my couch, and he toted, tended, and scrubbed…and then he kissed me. Smelly, clammy, ragged me.
I squinted at the clock. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I mumbled. “I love you,” he assured me before he went to bed, and I smiled.
That was marriage. That was love. He had washed my feet.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. ~John 13:14