I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer.
As a boy, and especially into my early teens, I was always captivated by the world around me; by nature. I remember being on Virginia Beach as a child, relishing the feeling of wet sand beneath my toes as I explored the horizon, venturing as far down the coast from my parents as my legs would allow. I remember always trying to swim past my brothers in the shallows- and laughing as I was carried back to the shore by the embracing arms of the ocean tide. I held seashells to my eager ears, marveling at the symphony of the big blue. The musician in me was watered by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The woods are a particularly fascinating place when you’re a young lad. You waltz and walk through the forest; you are braving new territory, even if, in reality, you’re only yards from your own backyard. Every tree branch that has collapsed across your path is no branch at all; rather, it is your trusted blade, your storied sword with which you will vanquish all the foes that dare stand in opposition to your righteous boyhood. Every tree that rises against you from the ground is such a foe; you slash, stab, and parry, and, in a stunning display of swordsmanship, you disarm (or perhaps, de-branch) your opponent. As you leap from bank to bank, you are traversing Middle-Earth, escorting and leading Frodo and the Fellowship toward Mordor. You are a knight on his way to rescue the most beautiful princess in the land. Personally, I was Link, solving puzzles and fighting monsters in order to get the six medallions needed to rescue Zelda and free Hyrule. Above all, you are an explorer…you are wandering. You are dreaming. You are daring to believe something more than circumstance.
Though I’ve grown older, I still wander…but not in the way that I used to as a child.
Rather, I often find myself wandering through fields of green, pacing along lakesides, all while my flip flops leave a trail tracing where I’ve been…but giving no indication of any sort of destination. Truth be told, my wandering has been entirely directionless, for the most part. Rather, they are walks that are built upon communion and intimacy, rather than a desire to reach a certain point on the horizon. The Lord and I have been going on a lot of walks lately. I often find myself daydreaming as I walk…wandering feet are often the product of a wandering mind. Thus, I often catch myself in Midwest towns, upon the shores of vast bodies of water, at the tops of grey peaks, and swimming in the midst of saltwater rooms. However, my wandering was also spurred on by a heavy heart- by a confusion that needed to be taken before the King of Kings, before my Great Counselor, before my Best Friend. He certainly met me and journeyed with me, which I am immensely grateful for.
When you embark upon a journey, it’s a good idea to plan what you bring along, lest you find yourself overburdened or severely lacking in necessary items. Typically, when I set out from whatever port I find myself at home in, I bring my Bible and my water bottle; living water and H2O, if you will. However, I noticed something recently. When I’ve been wandering in warm weather, I tend to wear flip flops. I’d go barefoot, but I have a nasty history of pointy things finding their way into the soles of my feet. However, I tend to accost a fair number of stowaways on my journeys. As a boy, they were sticks that had proven themselves on the field of battle, or perhaps rocks that were my trophies and medals from a particularly long campaign. As an adult, I notice that my feet tend to get rather messy in my wanderings. I tend to accumulate a fair amount of dust on my feet. Although I set out to be with my Saviour on these excursions, I can’t help but bring along a bit of a mess.
My feet have been covered with dust.
In life, our journeys tend to accomplish the same task. No matter what we do, our paths will always have their little stowaways- especially if we find ourselves tramping through deserts and arid plains, so to speak. All too often, I have spent time on the plains of my life, swept by gale winds, pelted with rain and pebbles, barely able to see the ground in front of me. But I never give up. I always keep plodding on, regardless of the storm in my heart or my life. After all, those who turn back in the face of adversity might as well have never set out in the first place. The goal is intimacy with God, and thus, any dust we accumulate is entirely worth the price. However, the dust that cakes our feet slows us down, displaces our steps…and makes for a rather difficult time. Given enough journeys, perhaps we would lose our ability to wander entirely…and that is a rather frightening thought.
Humans were made from dust- dust that was breathed into by God. Dust was made into God’s image; we were not perfect…but still beautiful-reflections of the one true beauty in this world.
God made a beautiful thing out of the dust. However, the dust did not remain…dust. It changed. It was breathed into. It was made beautiful…and it became us.
I love that, within the gospel of John, chapter 13, Jesus stoops down, and, with the dignity of a servant (which is no dignity at all), begins to wash the feet of His disciples. Peter (it’s always Peter, by the way. He’s kind of “that guy” in Jesus’ disciples) initially refuses to let the Lord cleanse him, but Jesus quickly stifles his protests. He says, “Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me” (NIV). Peter, of course, quickly gives in, begging the Lord to wash his entire being, rather than simply his feet. I wonder if that’s why Jesus said “Unless I wash you,” rather than “your feet.” It went further than Peter’s feet, messy and dirty as they were. Jesus states that those who have been bathed still need their feet to be washed…I have to wonder if that has some more meaning than we initially think.
We as Christians have indeed been bathed- we are given new life, made into new creations, and given the very image of God to bear…we are indeed clean. However, in our journeys, our wanderings…our feet still get dirty.
Unless He washes us, we will have no part with Him.
My feet have been covered with dust.
Notice, too, that Peter determined his worth, how worthy he was to be washed by Jesus, not based upon who he himself was, but rather by where he had been, by his journey. However, Jesus saw much more than that. He saw his dear friend, his comrade, his brother, his disciple in whom He had and would invest so much. Peter, in his self-deprecation, was denying his very identity- how Jesus saw him- based upon his tangible self, the physical dust he carried with him.
I’ve been doing much the same.
I can clearly tell you about why the way I am is so new for me, about the wonderful journey the Lord has taken me on…but in many ways I still bear the dust of my wanderings, and I define myself all too often by where I’ve been, by what I’ve already accomplished, and by the scars of my past that have yet to fade…rather than by the reality of my son-ship and companionship with Christ.
The reality is, I will never be able to truly serve, to love those around me, or to fully glorify and follow my Lord unless I let Him wash my feet. Then I can do the same for others…then I can serve, and lower myself and do a bit of foot-washing.
The fact that we can do so for one another is absolutely humbling and beautiful. By lowering Himself the way He did, Jesus was serving in a way that a Master should never have to. He was dealing with cuts, and scars, and learning, forgiving, and accepting where His disciples had been-indeed, He had been with them all along-defining them not by their dust, but by their true selves.
Perhaps, once we are cleansed from the dust of our lives, we will know what it truly means to love and care for those around us, and what it truly means to follow the Lord. I would indeed be able to resume the wandering I did as a boy…indeed, I believe that we must all re-learn what it means to wander and dream. After all, as a dear friend of mine stated decades ago, not all who wander are lost.
If Jesus can turn dust into humans…then surely He can turn our dust into something beautiful. After all, He makes beautiful things out of the dust…and He makes beautiful things out of us. Perhaps, once we allow Him to wash our feet, our dust will be made into something beautiful….and we will finally be granted peace. We all have dust; whether it’s a giant cuff around our ankles or a slight discoloration of our feet, we have it. And it can all be purified and cleaned…if we take ourselves out of our comfortable places and allow Him to wash us properly.
I’m ready to wander without dust clinging to my footsteps.
Our wandering may not have a clear direction. We may not be able to see the horizon. We may not even know why we wander. All we must know is who we are wandering with, and who we are as we wander with Him- and, suddenly, journeys to distant shores aren’t quite so frightening.
For we may wander…but we are not alone.
I am utterly amazed at the care with which the Good Shepherd bathes the feet of His wandering sons and daughters. He binds up our wounds…He anoints our heads and feet with oil…and our cup surely overflows.
We were made from dust.
But that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.
Indeed, we are not our own…for we have been made new.
And now that we are new…will we allow the Lord to finish His work and wash our feet?