This morning, I washed my dad’s feet. Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do to get through or to let him hear what was going on in my heart. After we woke up and had breakfast, I awkwardly asked him… “hey dad, I was wondering if I could do something with you. Do you have a bucket?” He responded adamantly, “No, I’m not getting baptized.” I explained to him that I didn’t want to baptize him, and that this act was more like a symbol of service, an act of recognizing his dignity and his humanity. This is definitely a weird thing to do by most standards, and is one of the most awkward things I have ever done, but I just knew it was what I needed to do. I’ve been thinking about it over the last few weeks, even through all the difficulty and all the struggle, and I just knew it was right. I didn’t believe it would change him, I didn’t believe that a lightning bolt would come down and strike all the pain away, I didn’t believe it would make everything perfect again. But I knew, and still know, that it would move something deep inside both of us. For me, the most important thing was to be obedient to what I felt in my heart, in hopes that God would use it to release something in our relationship. I definitely didn’t want to and fought it to the very last minute, but I am so glad I pushed through that feeling and did it anyway.
As I knelt before him, in this dark, wet and dusty, living room, I began to wash his feet in the water. I told him that I forgave him for everything and that I was sorry for the ways I had treated him in the past, like he wasn’t human. That he was a failure. That he deserved to be punished. He told me that I had nothing to forgive, that he never did anything wrong, and that I was arrogant for saying that I forgave him. But somehow, in this moment, it didn’t matter what he said back to me. It wasn’t just about him. In some ways, doing this might have been more for me. Over the past two weeks, as I sat face to face with this man, as we sat quietly in trains, and busses, as we’ve fought, as we’ve yelled, and as I’ve cried because of his actions and my own, as I hid in the streets, praying for God to tell me what to do, not wanting to share the same roof as this man, as he embarrassed me and tore me down in front of strangers, as he reminded me that I didn’t have what it took to make it - In those moments, strangely, I slowly began to see my own reflection. What has grown for so many years in my heart, the hatred, finally began to be melted away into compassion. I wanted to separate myself from him and from the choices he’s made in life. I wanted to put him into a category of someone I would never become. But the truth is that, without God’s spirit in me, I am him. We all are. In the moment of washing his feet and through what might have been a giant God moment over the last decade, I was finally able to see myself in his eyes. I would probably turn out a lot like him given the circumstances and having no faith in the goodness of God and the world we live in. My old man and me, we’re not so different after all. Just broken and hurt at the end of the day. I’ve just found a faith that has given me the power to change the course of my path. More accurately, I’ve been given a choice for a new story to written. A better story. Jesus’s role as my savior, has taken whole new meaning. There was a path of destruction, death, and sin that, when I was born, the world paved for me. My dad’s mother and absent father paved it for him, and I was destined by history to walk it too. But Jesus stopped me in my tracks and led me to a narrow path, one that requires care, hard work, balance and a lot of humbling moments, but this path has given me freedom and many answers amidst the unknown, within the deep struggle of being human and coming to terms with my own inadequacy.
God loves this man, as God loves me. I feel like somehow God was able to give me a little piece of His heart - to extend compassion and to serve and love my dad unconditionally. And this morning as I washed his feet in that red wash bucket, I felt like that love was able to touch his heart deeply. My dad began to tear up, but still said nothing about what I was doing. Even after we finished, he didn’t say anything about it, other than that it touched him. He still doesn’t believe in God, but I think he was touched by the heavenly Father’s love today. After that we hugged and I left for the airport. That was it.
There is something that Lee and Lisa Mason, my amazing bosses and pastor’s, said to me once that I think changed the direction of my life. They encouraged me to, when at all possible, fall on the sword - meaning to take the place of humility and the lowest seat at every table. They told me that they trusted God to defend them and that we didn’t need to defend ourselves and that He would always watch out for us. It’s ultimately what Jesus did for all of us. His humility was his power, not His might. When we take a look at our lives, in the culture that we are raised, we are taught that we can do most things ourselves. It’s the American way. We’re taught that justice is ours to serve, and revenge, unforgiveness, tearing down of our enemies, are all within our rights and power to do. But I think I am realizing that I don’t need to defend myself. I don’t need to fight for my place in life. I don’t need to prove to my dad that I’m anything. I don’t need to prove to society that I am worthy. Justice isn't mine to serve. All of these blow-ups that happened between my dad and me over the last few weeks, I was trying to gain ground through might, through power, through force. I was defending my heart. But today, as I decided to kneel and serve him, I believe God moved further and more deeply than any other time in his life. It was in the quiet sound of the water splashing, the awkward silence, and in the “I’m sorry’s and I forgive you’s” that Jesus was able to breathe life into my father's soul and into mine. And much to my amazement, Jesus actually did defend me. He strengthened my spirit and helped me fight the lies, and they began to lose their power. He has wrapped my soul in his arms of protection, truth and grace.
This man, dad, now owes me nothing. I’m no longer waiting for “good jobs” or “I’m proud’s,” I have walked free from the expectations I had set on him to be a reflection of God in my life. He doesn’t yet know the ways of Jesus. A beautiful exchange is taking place as I feel my spirit cry, “Abba.” And my cries don’t fall on deafness and aren't met with silence, but are answered with the voice of God. The wonderful, mysterious, still, small voice of Jesus.
Two months ago, I received a prophetic word from a lady at my church that I was a bird in a cage and that God had opened the door to the cage so that I could fly free. In the cage, the lady saw food and water, and she told me that she felt that even though I had food and water to survive in the cage, it wasn’t where I was meant to be. I wasn't just meant to survive, but I was meant to fly free and high in the sky. Six months ago I had a vision of my dad. I saw him in a jail cell, across from mine. I looked down in my hands and saw the keys to both of our prisons. These keys represented Jesus and the forgiveness that I could only receive and share through faith in Him. I heard Him beckon to me, “Would you both walk free? You have everything you need.” I know now what all of that meant. It takes a lot of faith to fly from our cages because in most cases in our lives, the cage is all we have ever known. There, we have the same food and water we have always had. But we have not yet seen the open skies and the view of the mountains, rivers, and lily fields of a full life. A free life. We do not yet know the fullness available because we are not willing to do the uncomfortable work of pursuing and living in the truth. Pursuing freedom takes all the courage we have.
Last night, on our last subway ride together in Taiwan, a young person offered her elderly priority seat to my dad - and it all hit me. Time is relentless. Life is relentless. My dad is now old. The world will not wait for you, and our fragility will be realized sooner than we had ever thought. We cannot afford to wait until we feel ready or we are equipped to pursue Jesus and to pursue reconciliation in all aspects of life. We cannot afford to wait until others “get it” or suddenly realize everything they have done to wrong you. We cannot wait for perfect situations before we begin to walk in faith. We can't wait for all the fog to lift. Because on this side, it never will. Nothing is going to fix itself. I want to encourage you - Have the conversations, take the trips, make the phone calls that you need to make. Do everything that you can do to make peace, to sow goodness on your path, and don’t be discouraged when nothing happens after one try. You will grow. Wash the feet you need to wash. You’re going to mess it up and it’s going to be incredibly trying, but know that the outcome does not depend on your perfection, but your willingness to go lower. It will be your willingness to serve that will move the mountain. A humble yes to God is more powerful than anything else - man’s plans, programs, or wills are useless when compared to the simple power of faith.
Not a single thing in life is certain (Thank you Malcolm). Not a single thing. Not one single guarantee. Success, health, the future, realized dreams, relationships, a bulging bank account. None of these things. My dad's broken heart has not been healed and there is still so much that has not been dealt with. But I see now that I was never guaranteed that, not this time. When we take risks, there is no certainty of reward. That's why it is a risk. But nevertheless, we must continue to walk in faith. Continue to press on towards wholeness, seeking truth and being bold and courageous with our conviction. There is a chance that when we commit to a life of faith and passion and courage - that not everything we do will be successful, and we may never see the fruit of out labor with our own eyes. We may never pick the flowers with our own hands or smell them with our own noses. but I am realizing this: Everything we do might be worthwhile. With God, this is a life worth living, and not a single thing is ever wasted.
Time to live.