In case any of you out there wondering how it is I start most of my days—don’t worry, I am about to tell you.
Most of the time I fall right back asleep. I set my alarm at a time that is for too aspirational, and roll back over and doze off for another hour.
Then there are the days when I pick up my phone and dive into a black hole of CNN and the New York Times. I try and avoid this trap as much as humanly possible. Like most people, the news wrecks havoc on my blood pressure, and as I try to heal the last thing I need is to be that angry that early in the day.
My preferred way to wake up is with my daily meditations. And I’m happy to report that during this time of lockdown, I’ve been doing it every day. I first go to the daily reflection of a spiritual group I’m a part of, then I read the morning meditation from the Franciscan Richard Rohr, before finishing up with the Daily Catholic Readings.
I like doing the Daily Catholic readings, especially since I gave up church for lent last year. I like the variety. I like that they cover the Old Testament and the New. I like that it connects me to the religion of my youth, and the other 1.2 billion Catholics of the world.
Today’s reading was great. I don’t know about you, but the world being on lockdown has thrown off my sense of time, and I had totally forgotten that today is Holy Thursday. Last Sunday Jesus entered the city on a donkey while palm fronds were laid at his feet. Tomorrow Jesus dies. Sunday he’s raised from the dead. And today he washes his disciples feet.
They were using the version from the Gospel according the John, and one of the first lines grabbed me right away. It said:
“Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.”
I read it a second time, and was struck by the fact that Jesus was sad about dying. That he loved his friends and was going to miss them. No matter what reward waited for him in heaven, the fact that he was not going to be a part of this world here gave him pause.
That’s certainly something most of us can relate to.
After that, he proceeded to wash the feet of all his disciples. They were all there, too. Judas, who had already sold him out for 30 pieces of silver, reclining at table. What ever that means. Peter was chilling, the one who was about to deny him to any one who would ask. He washed the feet of all of them.
I wanted to take a moment to think about it, so I put my phone back on my night stand. My moving around woke Jaimie up. I told her to go back asleep, and she responded by rolling over and putting her head on my chest. I once read that while negative thoughts form almost instant connections in our brains, positive ones can take up to fifteen seconds to take hold. I’m not sure why I remembered that right then and there, but I was glad I did. I closed my eyes and counted to fifteen. I focused on the softness of her skin. I thought about the smell of her hair. I take for granted that I’m going to be able to hold Jaimie forever. I’m not. And this has nothing to do with the cancer. I still plan on beating it and living another fifty years. But even if I do, one day this will all be over. I don’t want to take a second of it for granted.
I picked up my phone and read the Gospel a second time. Jesus washed their feet. And I’m imagining these aren’t the nice feet that most of us have today. The disciples traveled. A lot. And not by car or train or bus. They weren’t part of the frequent fliers club at Delta. They didn’t have Amtrak Credit Cards. They walked. From Israel to Egypt. From Syria to Bethlehem. From Judea to Decapolis. And yes I did just Google cities from the Bible.
I got out of bed and headed to the kitchen. I felt kind of bad about myself. I don’t wash anyone’s feet. I try to be nice. I make Jaimie tea in the morning. I hold the door open for people. But if I’m being honest, my acts of service can be few and far between.
But there was another line in the reading that started to take hold. When Jesus started to wash Peter’s feet, he tried to stop him. Peter was like, no way man, I should be washing yours. To which Jesus replied, “Unless I wash your feet, you can have no inheritance with me.”
Yes it’s important to be of service, but it seems pretty clear that we are meant to allow others to serve us as well. That can be hard. Watching Jaimie sit with me at the doctors, my dad making us soup during treatment, my mom bringing groceries, Valerie meeting Jaimie at the vet to help with Andy. Anneclaire and Rachel asking if there is anything they can —I don't like feeling needy. Maybe today I needed to learn that there is strength in service, and strength in allowing people to help. That if we want out inheritance with God, if we want to be human and divine, then we need to serve and be served as well.
I poured myself a coffee and sat by the open screen door. Who knows. I could be wrong. But it was better than reading about the covid virus first thing in the morning. I’ll try and start tomorrow morning the exact same way.