How dirty is your towel?

How dirty is your towel-

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus took on the role of a servant–the lowest servant, at that–and washed the grime from his disciples’ feet.

The King of kings humbled himself enough to do the job none of the disciples would step in to do. The dirty job. He knelt down with a towel and washed each one’s feet.

Wow.

Washing feet may not have the same cultural relevance today, but it still sounds like a pretty dirty job to me.

“How dirty is your towel?” This question refers to Jesus’ willingness to get dirty and do the job relegated to the lowliest servant in the house. It’s a question meant to cause us to consider our own lives and our own willingness–or, more often, unwillingness–to serve those around us.

Working at Chick-fil-A has been teaching me a lot about having a dirty towel.

Servant leadership is a huge part of the company’s model. But more than leadership, the “how we give” page on the company website states the principle they teach each employee: “We firmly believe in treating every person who comes through our doors with honor, dignity, and respect.”

Sounds great, right? Sounds like it shouldn’t be so hard. And it isn’t, most of the time.

But you know what?

One thing that hit me several months ago was it’s not so much that we’re unwilling to serve anyone, at any time. It’s that we put these exceptions on a list in our mind. We get this attitude of feeling “above” certain tasks, or certain people, whether we’re consciously aware of the attitude or not. 

Sometimes, I have to serve customers who are snippy with me when I make a mistake. Sometimes, I have to serve customers who are talking on their phone the whole time I’m trying to take their order. Sometimes, I have to serve customers who are interrupting and demanding things unreasonably. And sometimes, I even have to serve people with profane t-shirts. And it is hard, so hard, to treat them with honor, dignity, and respect.

But looking back at the example of Jesus…He served the people who deserved it the least. He consistently served the ones who were the “untouchables” of society.

At the beginning of the year, I was praying about 2016. I asked God to make me a servant. I said, “I’m not going to qualify that with ‘leader’ on the end, though that would be nice. Just a servant, God. Humble and meek.” And sometime not too long afterward, I had a day at work with several rude customers and one with a repulsive shirt. And as I complained silently to God, I felt Him gently remind me: Honor, dignity, and respect.

I called that young man “sir” several times as I took his order.

Respect.

Usually, I reserve “sir” and “ma’am” for the older crowd. But that day, something changed. And I began to see those “untouchable” people in a different way. I now make it a point to address customers who irk me in extra patient tones and with “sir” or “ma’am.” To keep me humble. To keep growing me as a servant.

That day I also remembered a time my pastor preached on a servant’s heart. He asked this question–a more blunt and direct version of “how dirty is your towel”: Whose feet are you unwilling to wash? That really hit me. I went home and thought about it. And by the end of the day, I had to ashamedly admit that there were very few people in my life whose feet I would even consider washing.

I remembered that question when I returned home from work that night I called the young man sir. And I again asked God to change me. To take away my list of infinite exceptions and give me a humble spirit, loving each person He put in my path in a self-sacrificing way.

I’ve been able to watch Him answer that prayer, little by little. I’m seeing opportunities to be a servant more and more often, especially as I begin taking them. And slowly but surely, God has been doing a work in my heart. I don’t say this to boast, for as He knows, I have much room for improvement. But I say this as a testimony of God’s grace, and as an encouragement that He does change hearts and lives.

How dirty is your towel? — I’m asking myself this question today as a check-up, this Passion Week. If my Lord would suffer the scorn of His creations, and not only bear it, but also serve them…how could I refuse to do the same?

But besides reminding myself today, I challenge you with these questions: Whose feet are you refusing to wash?

How dirty is your towel?

 Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28

4 thoughts on “How dirty is your towel?

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  1. This is awesome, Twinsie.

    I think it’s so easy to say things like, “Oh, I love everyone! I don’t judge. I treat everyone with total respect.” But when it comes down to it, we make an exception to our so-called “loving rule” and decide not to treat people the way Jesus would.

    We silently judge the people that are rude, the ones with the lifestyles we don’t approve of, the ones who don’t watch their mouths, the people that aren’t groomed nicely; and we tell ourselves that they deserve that.

    And you know what? Maybe they do deserve to be treated poorly, but we have to keep remembering that so do we. Jesus loved His people, not because they were good, but because He is. We didn’t deserve His grace that gives us eternal life, it is a gift.
    And because He is good, we must show that merciful love to others…especially when they don’t deserve it. Especially when it’s difficult and we don’t want to.

    Why? Because we’re servants of the King. And nobody’s too dirty for Jesus.

    ❤ Thank you!

    1. Exactly this. Maybe they do deserve it, but that’s exactly why we should treat them with love. Because that’s what makes the difference. That’s what sets followers of Christ apart from everyone else–we love the unlovable. Just as Christ loved us. 🙂

  2. Wow, Amanda, this post is so deep and thought-provoking! I need to ask myself that question too. It’s hard to sacrifice pride, and serve, but as you pointed out, if our sinless Master served, and even washed the feet of the one who betrayed Him, there’s no reason we’re above it. There’s so much to learn in this Christian life!

    I’ve had the opportunity to do some door-to-door outreach work recently, and one thing it has taught me is that my human judgement is so often wrong! Sometimes people are rude and short to begin with, but later on in our conversation they open up and share all the pain they’re going through. Often the ones who are the least polite are the ones who are hurting the most, and who are closest to accepting God’s love and salvation. It’s really taught me that only God can read the heart… Sorry if that seemed like an irrelevant paragraph – I was just relating to your experiences with serving rude customers.

    Anyway, I’m glad to have found your blog, Amanda. It’s already been an encouragement to me. 🙂 May God bless you!

    1. Hi Jessica! Glad you stopped by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know I’m constantly surprised to find that someone who I thought had a bad attitude or was lazy was in fact going through a really rough day, or was in a difficult situation at home. It’s always an eye-opener and a reminder to love everyone, especially those who seem like they deserve it the least–because they often need it the most.

      Thanks again!

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