And on this day of all days you choose to waste your time washing our tired, pungent, dusty feet. Should a king stoop so low, and have his back bow down with all our ills? It does not seem right. And when we are sat, later, breaking your body further as bread, and drinking your blood down along with all those bitter herbs, the symbolism lost on us for now, shall we kick off our sandals under the table for a brief moment, and savour the rarity of soft, cleansed and sweet-smelling skin?
Art and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2018
Today is the day everyone except the women fled from Jesus. Today is the day that he was kissed by a dear friend in betrayal. Today is the day to admit to cowardice, because the best of the best are capable of it. And so, I turn to my own cowardice, which has many facets, and look on it with compassion. I am terrified of getting it wrong and of public speaking, and of great white sharks (and small white sharks, if I’m honest) and yet all that fear does is stand in the way of things.
Yet, fear is a perfectly natural thing to feel. Standing up in front of lots of people, all waiting for you to say something, is terrifying to someone like me who hates being the centre of attention. So, I’m guessing fear and cowardice are not the same thing. What then, is my cowardice, the thing that makes me flee from what I should be doing? The obstacle that turns my stomach to water for selfish, no-good reasons? That would more likely be the voice that says, “Don’t do that for them, they wouldn’t do it for you” or “If you listen to them today they’ll always expect it,” or “If you say that thing you know is true, they will all think you a fool.” So, maybe it makes sense to run (or swim) away from some things, even if it is to save the fight for a better day, as we could argue the male disciples did, but when we are running from the best of ourselves, or the truth, especially God’s truth, or from something that we know is the right thing but will cost us, that is real cowardice. It is hard to have compassion on that, but perhaps we are better off acknowledging our faults and weaknesses, and asking God into them, rather than berating ourselves or blaming and shaming ourselves for our failures.
Perhaps the real price of cowardice is paid when we refuse to look at the unseemly parts of ourselves, so that change cannot happen. Only when we can be compassionate with our own shadows can we be truly merciful with the perceived faults of others.
text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 photo from memecrunch.com
Clean-footed you arrive for the feast with all your mates, even the quiet one who smiles too much, and eat your fill, the specialness of the occasion dulled a little by a strange atmosphere rising from the bitter herbs that you cannot quite put your finger on – or dip your bread in – the metallic tang of silver clinking a short way away. And the traditional blessings seem a little more vibrant somehow, though all dulled by the wine you each lean this way and that, up against it. And the new words rankle, even as they spark with power, and then you start to leave one by one, heading for the fresh air in the garden, where the night air zinging with olives may waken you, or send you skulking into the shadows. Behind you, under the table, thirteen lots of breadcrumbs mingle with the dust.
© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016
Photo from morguefile.com