In Cambodia we wear sandals everywhere and take them off as soon as we enter a house or school. This felt a little weird when we first moved here but it only takes a trip or two to the markets and you quickly figure out why! Between discarded bits from the veggie or butcher stalls, animals (and young children) peeing on the road, and general road dirt and grime, our sandals and feet pick up any number of things! Washing our feet several times a day is pretty common. For our friends, immediately heading to the bathroom to wash theirs when they arrive isn’t strange at all, just a part of life. Even our pup gets his feet washed or wiped down every time he comes in the house from a walk (much to his annoyance)!
This reminds me of when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the Bible. In the US where I so frequently wore socks and red wing boots for work, I generally pictured dusty, but relatively clean feet that it was very nice of Jesus to wash. Quick wipe down and he was done, right? Now I’m realizing that those feet of the disciples were probably GROSS! Jesus knelt on the floor, grabbed hold of those grimy feet and he lovingly washed them clean.
After seeing my own feet, I’m pretty sure I would have reacted like Peter. “Jesus, there is no way you are touching my icky feet!”
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
It’s just another benefit of living in Cambodia — every day, I understand this story and what it really meant a little bit better.