Real Help for Real Living: Which comes first, the shower or the shoes?

Anthony MarcianoThe men at the Rescue Mission were scheduled to receive a special gift, a new pair of shoes.

We had been approached by Samaritan’s Feet who wanted to partner with Charlotte Rescue Mission to give the men in our residential substance abuse recovery program a new pair of shoes.  Who is Samaritan’s Feet?

Samaritan’s Feet shares hope with children in the U.S. and around the world by washing their feet, giving them a new pair of shoes, and helping them believe that their dreams can come true.  Samaritan’s Feet believes that a new pair of shoes can be a tangible foundation of hope to a person in need.

We scheduled the event in our gym where the men work out daily with CrossFit instructors.  Those instructors were going to be washing the men’s feet, drying them and giving them a new pair of shoes.  That was Tuesday.

Friday morning, I am in Bible class with the men asking them about their experience with having their feet washed.  Many said it was a blessing.  Other said they saw the humility in the eyes of the people serving them.  They were grateful.

Then I asked, “How many of you washed your feet before the shoe service?”  They all washed their feet.  I asked why.  The answers were amazing.  They had dirty, sandy feet.  They had smelly feet.  No one should have to touch their feet unless they are clean.

I explained that where they went wrong.  How they treated the volunteers who washed their feet was the same way they were treating God.  Now I had their attention.

They were saying that the volunteers wouldn’t accept them unless their feet were clean and smelled fresh.  If they arrived with dirty, stinky feet, they would be rejected.  Perhaps the volunteer would say something like, “Ooh, do these feet stink and they have dirt and sand on them. When was the last time you washed them?  You better do it now.”  Yet the volunteers would not have said that to them.  They were glad to model God’s love to them.

The other problem was they were doing the same with God.  They wanted to clean up their life first; they wanted to be sure they would stay clean and sober; they felt they needed to stop doing the same destructive things they always did.  If they could do that, then God would accept them and love them. They were saying that God’s love for them was conditional.  In other words, if they cleaned up their life, if they were assured they would forever stay clean and sober, if they stopped doing the same destructive things they always did, then and only then would God love them, accept them and forgive them.

There is a scripture verse that says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  They had the verse backwards.  They believed that if they got their life together, then God would accept them. Instead, He invites them to come just as they are – a mess, not sure of their long term sobriety, problems, etc. and bring those burdens and concerns to Christ.  Only when they come with the brokenness of their life can God truly make something beautiful out of it.

Billy Graham closed his crusades with the famous hymn, “Just as I am.”  I am so very glad he chose that hymn.  It invites you and I to come exactly as we are, with whatever mess we have, knowing that God will accept us “Just as I am.”