Wait. What?" I asked, as Justin handed me a bottle of lotion.
"Yeah but only rub down the guys who need it and are too weak to do it themselves. Some of them just like it. Only the ones who need it," was the answer I received from our volunteer coordinator.
Prior to yesterday, the most uncomfortable act of service I've ever been asked to perform was the washing of the already-pretty-clean feet of a close friend. Now a volunteer coordinator at a Mother Theresa home in Calcutta is pointing at some ashy old dude with one toe, who's looking up expectantly at us.
I look to the sound, and Justin is holding the bottle out to me, his own hand already full of pink moisturizer.
Now mine is too.
No turning back now.
We get on our knees and start with the arms. Less intimate, less uncomfortable. With enough jokes and a kind of false intensity with the job we're doing, we're able to distract ourselves from eye contact with the man.
But then we finished the arms and got to the hands. "Do the hands too?" I asked, fingers crossed for a "nah you're good."
"I guess," Justin replied.
I think I speak for both of us when I say that as I began to massage lotion into the dry, cracked palms of a man whose name I'll never know this side of Glory, something clicked. No, something changed. Drastically.
For me, images flooded my mind of the work he used those hands for, the joys they applauded, the burdens they carried. As the dark, chapped skin between his fingers drank deep the newly introduced moisture, I first realized how much of life our hands behold.
It was then too that I first looked into this man's eyes and saw come to life all the memories held therein.
The look on my face at that moment betrayed the joy I felt in my heart.
By the time we got to his one solitary toe, we were laughing and talking to our new friend in a language that made no sense to the Bengali-speaker, but it was okay. “If this stuff makes you look like this,” Justin said, nodding at the gorgeous model on the front of the lotion bottle, “then this place is gonna be full of total babes.”
We were so ready for the next lotion-seeker.
Everything about my experience today changed when I was able to see “some ashy old dude with one toe” as “our new friend.”
Suddenly it wasn’t about me anymore.
Projects became people.
Obligation became eagerness.
"Wait. What?" was changed to "Who's next?"
What if this was every day? What if we just walked around every day of our lives and instead of seeing strangers, we saw people who are in desperate need of the love that Christ has to offer? What if mission projects weren’t about spiritual checklists, a nice pat on the back, or an instagram post? What if we took Jesus seriously when he taught about the least of these?
When the King of creation humbled Himself to become a helpless baby, grow into a poor man, kneel to wash the feet of those who would deny and betray Him, have His kingdom mocked and profaned, and die the most humiliating death in history, His motivation was love. Love for the Father. And love for His own.
What would happen if we modeled our hearts after the Savior of the world in our service?
Can you imagine?
This place would be full of total babes.
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." - Galatians 5:13
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