Wash Your Children's Feet

He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

– John 13:4-5

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had tried to carve out a bit of time to work on a drawing. I gathered my papers and pens and had set up shop at the table. I started to make a few marks and then it happened. The sound of a child crying because they couldn’t find a blanket, or someone needed help in the bathroom, or a doll needed a wardrobe change, or someone couldn’t reach something. Then after the second or third, or other times even at the first interruption, I slammed down my pen and trudged off to try and address the problem quickly so that I could get back to what I wanted to be doing. To make matters worse, while trying to take care of their needs, things came from my lips like, “you need to keep up with your stuff…” or, “if you wouldn’t be so rough with your toy, it wouldn’t keep coming apart…” These words in themselves were not bad advice and could be good instruction, however, too often the tone of my voice coupled with body language simply said, “Do things right so you won’t bother me with it!”

These moments are too common. I don’t have it all together as a father or husband. I really don’t. I get impatient at the drop of a hat and I am prone to be extremely selfish with my time. It’s a hard fight within me. My sinful flesh ignites quickly in those situations and the first thought that goes through my mind is not serving my family, but that they are taking me away from my selfish desires.

I’m sure every father can relate to this on some level. Maybe it’s while working in the garage, trying to watch the game, read a book, or just get a moment to sit and relax, but the result is always the same.

If you really want to boil it down and say it truthfully, the way we treat our families in those moments is telling them that we are more important than them; and that we will make them suffer for needing us. Regardless of our intentions, it communicates that it’s their fault for taking us away from what we were doing. That when you need us, we will get angry at you, and it is like pounding a wedge between us and our children.

Fellow dads, we have to fight this, and our only hope to overcome is not in our ability to will new reactions and censor ourselves, but it is in a new heart. This is because our words and actions flow out of our hearts.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

The reality is that this is not something we can create for ourselves. We cannot give ourselves a new and good heart. Rather it must be done by the transforming work of Christ dwelling in us! We must depend on his grace to give us strength in those moments to follow his example. (Psalm 51:10)

And what an example he gave us! Think of the night Christ shared the Passover in the upper room, where he washed the feet of his disciples. Here is Christ the night before he would give his life up for others, among the men that he loved, listening to them argue about who would be the greatest among them; and Jesus takes the position of a servant. He humbles himself to wash their feet, their dirty, mud-crusted, slop-covered feet. When you watch him, he doesn’t slam down his cup, or bang his fist on the table and grunt or sigh. He doesn’t throw the basin down so everyone knows he is frustrated and upset that he had to get up and do this. Instead, he humbly and quietly takes action to serve those he loved. He saw their need, and his ability to meet it.

I want to be like that for my family. Seeing their needs and giving up my wants and desires to help them have theirs, just as Christ saw my need for him as being greater than his holding on to heaven (Philippians 2:5-8). So men, let us fight hard when the urge arises in us to let loose our frustration by remembering God’s long suffering and patience with us. Let us display to our children the love of Christ that patiently welcomes them with their needs.

Let us pick up the towel, the water, and get on our knees and wash our families’ feet.