Unless I wash you, you have no part with me

I suspect that those drawn to biblical counselling will tend to be eager footwashers. There will be something about the business of getting into the mess and dirt of other people’s lives that will appeal to them. They’re not afraid of getting their hands dirty. Not frightened by the chaos and the mess; never happier, perhaps, then when someone is pouring out the pains and the hurts. Ready to point them to Christ. Ready to offer them the gospel of grace. Ready to show them the one who came to wash their feet.

But this Easter, I find myself wondering something else. I wonder if those of us who are drawn to biblical counselling might be rather less good at presenting our own feet for washing. If indeed, rather like Simon Peter, we might say: No, Lord (never a good word combination), you shall never wash my feet.

I find myself wondering if there might be something about us that prefers doing the helping than receiving it. Happier serving others, than being served ourselves. We rather like the idea that others need us; that they depend on our wise counsel; our patient listening; our perceptive insights. We aren’t nearly so keen on the idea of needing help ourselves. For we are the carers, the helpers, the people to whom others turn. And we rather like that.

But the idea of being helped? Of admitting our helplessness, our lostness, our inability to find a way forward? All that runs against the grain. It doesn’t fit with the image of wise and omni-competent counsellor that we like to project.

But listen to what Jesus has to say: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’ (John 13:8).

It doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre. Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. Unless you bring your feet for cleansing; unless you let me kneel before you, stripped and with a towel round my waist, you have no part with me.

So begin here. Begin with dirty feet that need his hands and his cleansing. Begin with the sad admission that we have dirt that we cannot wash off; a need that only he can meet; a helplessness that requires his ministry.

If we don’t, then our care will always smack of condescension. We will be those who counsel, not from alongside but from above. We will be those who speak of a gospel that isn’t fresh in our own minds, experienced in our own hearts. We won’t declare it with the joy of a heart that knows how wonderfully it has been loved.

When we counsel, it will help if our feet are still slightly damp. It would help if we counselled as those whose feet still feel the press of the towel Jesus used when he dried them.

Steve Midgley is Executive Director of Biblical Counselling UK