Tonight I learned something about being a servant, about taking up my own mantle and slipping my arms in the sleeves. About slipping off my shoes and allowing myself to be touched even though my feet were dirty.
Tonight my sponsor, Cindi, washed my feet. And I was sort of embarrassed, sort of like a small child who’s gone and dirtied her dress. I tried to keep my feet clean today, I really did. But I had a big old streak of mud on top of one, and the bottoms were dirty too. Cindi took it all stride, as she is wont to do.
Then I washed the feet of others. I poured water out from the pitcher, and I dried the feet. And then I stood up and gestured for the next person, or just waited and sang.
This was hard for me to do. I hate pedicures, hate being manhandled and manipulated. You know I love you if I let you rub my shoulders.
But my friend can’t handle it. She can’t experience it. And her can’t combined with the lesson on putting on that cloak, that mantle, of servant-hood, it pretty much undid her. She caught up with me on the way out, and it’s hard to see a grown woman, and one who is your friend, and one whom you respect to the ends of the earth; to see her cry.
To hear her admit aloud the things that she cannot do. We love to boast about all the things that we can do, and are strangely silent when it comes to our failings.
I told her then, grasping her hand, that serving is so many different things, there are so many ways to serve. And that she does them all, and that its ok, SO OK that there is this one thing that she cannot do. She said more, about layers that keep her safe, about desperately wanting to be different.
It was the part about the layers keeping her safe that got to me. Because I get that part. I have lots of layers, lots of skins, that keep me safe. And this journey has been in large part about peeling those back and whispering in a cowed sort of way “peek a boo” to those around me. Its been about saying, look, right there, see that? That is a really ugly part of me.
And it’s been about realizing that those things I thought were so ugly and so secret, really weren’t so bad once I took the festering bandage off and looked at the wound in the light.
Because I think that all our ugly bits, all the things we can’t stand about ourselves, they are usually sores that have gone bad, become infected, that weep pus and blood and regret.
But tonight I got to see a small part of a larger wound on my friend, and I didn’t know what to say, so I just did what was probably the worst thing to do, and I hugged her. Sweaty pits and all. And the small failing that is so huge to her, that feels insurmountable and terrible; to me it wasn’t that large of a thing. And so when she took the bandage off, when she let me peek, just for a minute, at a place where she was wounded, I wasn’t sickened or frightened. I just wanted to help, to get the Bactine out and clean that sore and then bandage it again and check on it in a few days.
We all have these places, these rooms that house our secret shame, like the Room of Requirement, I can always call something to mind to make me feel bad about myself. And when we realize, or are reminded, that there is the wide wide grace, this mercy that flows without ceasing, maybe then we can open one single slat on the shutters of that room, and let one single beam of light come through.
I wish you could see the lake tonight. I wish I could describe it for you in a way that would do it justice. The ice has all melted, and the water shines like glass, and it reflects back the misty pink and purple sky. Venus has spread her dusky skirt and she sits high in the sky, a beacon, a siren, a landmark.
The gulls are screaming down on the beach.
And I am thinking that asking to be stained glass glory light, to take on that as my cloak, my mantle, maybe means that sometimes I will see small glimmers into other people’s Rooms of Requirement. And I can be the small beam that breaks through, and then I can be that person saying, there there, that wasn’t so bad. Everything will be all right.
Because it will, because we belong to each other, because after Saturday you really can’t get rid of me. And because it is my calling, my own. To be stained glass glory light, to shine and sing in the places that are the most black, the most scary, filled with strangers who have their hands out, or friends who have their fists clenched. To light a small light, just a small one, one note, one song, one hug.
Let me love you.
Let me in.
I’d thought I’d get a new mantle, one clean and ironed and spotless in which to do my work. I hadn’t realized I’d been making my cloak all along.
My mantle is patchwork and piecemeal, there are bits of fringe and sequins sewn on here and there. There are frayed spots and stained pieces too. There’s a patch with music noes on it, a treble clef, and an A on a scale that I aspire to sing as pure and true as if I was born to sing it. There’s one with a red tray and a red apron and a baseball cap to keep my hair out of the food. One with a picture of woman making meals out of almost nothing. And one of a lovely and gleaming mother duck, with a whole train of ducklings following her toward that misty lake. Because they love her, and they trust her, and they don’t even think about these things, they just are.
Let me love you.
Thank you for letting me light that small candle, that flame that flickers in the shadowy space of your room, the room that houses all of your secret shame.
See you Saturday.