It was awesome.
Of course, it’s natural for me to feel that way – I love working with students. They’re exhilarating. They’re exhausting. They’re full of questions. They’re full of awkward silences. But it was also awesome for another reason: the theme lent itself to the perfect intersection of my nerd tendencies and my Christian faith. I simply cannot remember the last time I enjoyed developing sermons more. There was something so wonderfully fulfilling about writing messages that combined themes from superhero comic books and the life-changing truths of the Gospel.
I’ll post my first two messages tomorrow and Wednesday (I think they’ll translate just fine), but I wanted to take second tonight to write about something that happened at the closing service on Saturday night. The topic was serving people, and I took the kids to John 13. In that passage, the Lord of all the universe, the God who spoke man into existence, knelt down on his knees and gently washed the dirt from the toes of his creations.
I read that passage to them, and spoke only briefly. Then, I told them what the real sermon was going to be: the students would take off their socks and shoes, sit awkwardly in their chairs, and let their small group leaders wash their feet.
You’d have thought I asked them to naked mambo in the parking lot.
Some kids immediately grabbed their shoes. Others looked nervously around. Still others silently mouthed “I can’t do this” to me from across the room. I gently but firmly told them they had no choice: as Jesus says in that passage, “If you don’t do this, you have no part with me.”
Soon enough, there were naked feet everywhere.
Now, I know what a lot of people say about this age group being an over-sexed, over-exposed generation. I routinely shake my head at the stories about sexting, SnapChat, Omegle, and other horrible ways that teenagers put their private parts into the public domain. It certainly seems that they aren’t shy.
But when the rest of you is clothed, you’d be surprised at how vulnerable naked feet can make you feel.
Now personally, I’m not a feet man. I have a strong dislike for my own simian-inspired toes, so I rarely ever go anywhere sans closed toe shoes. So the notion of pulling my puppies out in public is stomach churning. It’s also not surprising.
But if this generation really is as sexual as we are led to believe, then the genuine modesty and shyness I saw on Saturday night was a sign of hope. Maybe it’s because of the group setting; maybe it’s because they’d just gone through a massive mud-covered obstacle course; or maybe it’s because this group in particular is more modest in all things, and so the showing of skin in any form is unusual.
Maybe it’s all of those things. But all I could think was this: when so much of you is exposed on a regular basis, it’s easy for your flaws to be hidden. People tend to focus on those parts that only interest them and you can hide in their selfishness.
Uncover only a certain part ourselves, especially a part that many of us think is ugly to begin with, and those flaws can’t hide. They are brought into focus. Magnified. Highlighted.
We are shown to be what we really are: imperfect.
That was the lesson I wanted the students to understand. We cannot hide in the sight of God. We cannot mask our imperfections. When the Holy Eyes of the Lord fall on our hearts and souls and lives, He sees everything. Each thought. Each desire. Each sin. We are unmasked.
And yet the beauty of this passage is that same God still bent his knees and washed the feet of undeserving sinners; he cleansed the nastiest places of their physical bodies as surely as he intended to cleanse the nastiest parts of their souls.
I think they got it. In complete and utter silence, fifty teenagers sat as adults – some much older than them, some near their own age – slowly made their way around to each one, cascading water over feet. One young person was so overwhelmed, it seemed like a breakdown; turns out, it was – the student had committed their life to Christ.
Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that get to us; sometimes, it’s the tiniest detail that brings our facade of pride and perfection crashing to the ground.
And sometimes, that’s a very good thing.