Africa is a dirty place. There is dirt and dust everywhere! The dirt and dust which lives among the streets and by the water banks culminates into mounds that get swept everywhere by the wind. The wind manages to push the dust into every nook and cranny and every crack and crease. It never fails, if you spent a few hours sweeping your home and then moping, you can walk barefooted across the floor and your feet are going to be dark with the dust. The doors and windows don’t have good seals so the dirt just seeps in through all the cracks. All of this worsens right before a storm when the winds fill the air with a cloud of dust. And after the storm, all that remains is mud everywhere. And at the end of each day, before going to bed, you must wash your feet.
But I am learning to not be upset by seeing my own dirty feet or the never-ending task of scrubbing them. They are becoming symbolic to me. I used to read the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and it didn’t mean much at the time. What was the big deal? In America our feet are clean. I would almost be willing to volunteer to wash a stranger’s feet. They usually have socks and shoes on to protect their feet anyway. But in Africa, it is not that way.
Many people don’t own shoes, or if they do, they might just be borrowed. But because feet are the main source of transportation, protecting them are important. They will make their own coverings or find two different colored and sized flip flops and make them work. But as with other customs in many other countries, the Congolese take their shoes off when entering a home as a sign of respect, even if the floor is just as dirty as the outside ground. In fact, our sentinels don’t even wear shoes on our porch!
Bringing all of this around full circle, image washing a stranger’s feet. Not just any feet, but feet that have been wearing open sandals. Open sandals that do not block out the dirt and dust. Feet that have been a person’s livelihood, taking them to and from their destinations. Feet that have become harden by so much walking and dirt. And then image Jesus willingly washing those feet to show us His love. Perhaps the holy ground God was referring to when He asked Moses to remove his sandals, were the feet, and God was getting ready to wash them.