There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
The one who makes me perfect in love is God; it’s not me. The one who helps me let go of my fear of punishment, judgment, and hurt is God; it’s not me. Not being perfect in love is not a fault in me but just where I am on the road.
Easter is approaching fast, and with it Maundy Thursday, with the washing of feet – a ritual that I’m often not comfortable with. The experience tends to be too close to the bone. Sometimes I take part and feel rather ill at ease and later overwhelmed; sometimes I stay away and avoid it altogether. I’ve been thinking about it tonight, and it occurred to me that this ritual has a lot to do with other things I’m thinking about at the moment – my need for intimacy and closeness, and the fear of having anyone come too close. Both cause me a great deal of pain. The need to be seen for who I am and the fear of what will happen if I am seen. And I realised how much this is what God washes our feet for.
Where there’s love, there’s no fear… God comes and serves us – God comes and loves us. And it’s so scary. It’s so difficult.
God comes to me and serves me so I learn that She is good and that I don’t need to be afraid.
God comes to me and I learn good relationship from Her – respectful touch, how to honour the body of another, equality in service for one another, exchanging a blessing. Nothing to be afraid of…
God and I may look at my feet, and all I see is dirt and trouble and all I feel is fear, I feel untouchable, too difficult, too much work, easy to judge and impossible to love (who would want feet like these on their couch?); God sees the long way I have come and the long way I will go from here, and feels love for me. And because She doesn’t turn away, because She is gentle, because She stays, something changes.
She says, “Let me love you. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I came for”, and however much afraid I am, there is something in her eyes, and in some people’s eyes, that I trust enough to let this happen. In some rare moments, I feel enough trust to let myself be touched, or held, or seen.
And then I have taken one step further, and I see a bit more that I don’t need to be afraid. God is good. God can be trusted. Some people can be trusted. It sometimes seems these moments are too rare, too far and few in-between to be enough to live on. But then, I guess, God comes to me again with a bowl and a jug of water and a towel in Her hand, and changes me.
If someone washes my feet, they see something of me that is usually hidden. And that is unsettling.
And yet, however frightened I may feel, what God gives me in this experience is a bit more ground to live on, an experience of having trusted without having been hurt. I cannot learn trust on my own, I’ve got to learn it with other people…