The first time I traveled to India, the trip was an assault on all five senses. After a few days I grew accustomed to the site of overpopulated streets, the acrid smells of gasoline and smoke, the tastes of unusual spices, and the sounds of chanting from temples, honking cars and buzzing auto-rickshaws. However, it was the sense of touch that shook me up. After all, I don’t enjoy unexpected contact.
Already growing weary of the forced rubbing of shoulders, arms and sides with strangers in the crowded marketplaces, buses and trains, it seemed only a matter of time before I was pushed beyond my comfort zone.
One evening after visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, our group stood waiting to catch our train back to Delhi. A loud pop filled the air and the station went dark. As a number of men began to whistle and holler in the dark, the men in our group formed a protective circle around our wives and the other ladies traveling with us. Fortunately, the lights flickered back on, but as they did, I noticed an Indian man on his knees trying to grab my foot. Already a little spooked about the night that the lights went out in Agra, I lifted my foot and backed away. The man attempted to grab my foot again while speaking to me in Hindi.
Though I had training on some of the cultural differences to expect between the U.S. and India, I was not prepared to handle sudden foot grabbing by strangers in the train station. I asked him in English to leave me alone as I moved my foot away again, but to no avail. He came after my foot several more times and my voice grew louder each time for him to stop. If not for my Hindi-speaking guide who told the man I wasn’t interested, I’m sure he would have kept trying.
My guide explained the man just wanted to shine my shoes for a few rupees. Understanding the man’s intentions and remembering my group’s cultural training mantra of “It sounds good to me”, I looked for the man to apologize and motion to him that a shoeshine was fine. It was too late, he had already moved on down the platform to grab another foot.
It wasn’t until later I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s negative reaction to Jesus’ attempt to wash his feet (John 13:8). Though Peter’s motives for not wanting Jesus to stoop low to serve Him were more out of reverence than my desire to have the Indian man leave my feet alone, his reaction temporarily stood in the way of the example Jesus was demonstrating on how we should serve one another.
Have you ever thought that resisting somebody’s efforts to serve you could be hindering God’s work? Scripture shines the dust off this in 1 Peter 4:10.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
God has gifted each of his children with certain gifts to accomplish His will that includes serving one another. We are guaranteed trials in our life and it is great that we have a multitude of believers with a variety of talents in our community to help lighten our burden regardless of the circumstances.
Fortunately, later in my trip a young boy offered to shine my shoes and this time I was quick to let him. As I watched the pride he took in each scrub and polish as he earned his rupees, I was thankful for the example Jesus set in stooping low to serve us by his life, death and resurrection.
Whatever you face today, resist the temptation to go it alone. If someone is ready to “wash your feet” in true service to you, take a chance and let them.
You might enjoy this unexpected contact.