Trading in our Easter finery for dirty feet

by Kristin on April 5, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by Caitlinator

As a culture, our ideas about what marks an event as “important” and “special” are deeply entrenched. We get out our best clothes for Easter Sunday, and our best china and silver for Christmas dinner. We spend money we don’t have on a honeymoon hotel, and later on anniversary dinners at the finest restaurants in town.

I completely get the impulse, and I regularly act on it. I suppose it’s because I want to bridge the gap between what I know and what I feel. We recognize, intellectually, that this day is not like other days, so we want to do something that ensures we don’t just know it, but we also feel it. We want that head knowledge marked on the calendar to become something known and experienced by every fiber of our being—by tasting, smelling, seeing, even ingesting the full importance of the moment.

But does it work? Does the fancy restaurant help us taste and draw sustenance from the love we feel for our spouse? Do the Easter suits and dresses help us enter and understand the tomb, the simple linen cloths left behind?

A love that doesn’t get dressed up

As I read this Maundy Thursday post by my blogger friend, Ed Cyzewski, it occurred to me that Jesus was planning the most important meal of his life, and he chose to avoid everything that would flag it as important and special. It was a simple meal in a simple room. Jesus did not put on fine clothes for the occasion—in fact, he did the opposite, stripping down to wash his guests’ feet (John 13).

And the interactions between those who gathered at the table? They were also stripped down, naked. Each individual had much to hide, but there was no way to hide it in that bare setting.

We’re not comfortable with that, of course. We want those moments to be the moments when we arrive with bells on, scrubbed clean, our veneer polished to a shine that distracts from all that’s within us. But Jesus knew it was a moment so important that just the opposite needed to occur. Here’s how Ed puts it in his post:

For the Jewish people who had put so much stock in showing up at the synagogue each week and traveling to the temple for the major religious festivals, Jesus re-centered his community around a meal at a common table.

One may approach a temple with elaborate prayers and pretense. It’s quite another matter to do the same at a community meal.

Just as his followers shared wine and bread in common, they were expected to share their lives with one another. In the setting of a home, there is little room to hide.

This Easter weekend, I’m going to try hard to reframe what it looks like to acknowledge and take in an important moment. It won’t be easy, but it could be very powerful. What if we all decided that honoring the greatest love—the greatest gifts and moments that define who we are—called for a stripping down rather than a dressing up? How would our churches and relationships change?

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  • ed cyzewski

    Thanks for riffing off my post. I like where you took your meditations here. It’s particularly good for me to read this as we’ll be having some friends over on Easter Sunday, and I know I’m going to try to make our house look perfect. ;)

  • Celina

    I love your thought provoking and challenging posts. Much appreciated.

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    So thought-provoking, Kristin. It’s hard sometimes to remember that our faith is rooted in these humble moments – we so want them to be shiny and exciting and “perfect.”

    There’s a song by an Austin musician called “Dirty Feet” that ran through my head as I wrote this post. His name’s Dave Madden and it’s on his website ( or on YouTube here:

  • Kristin T.

    ed, thanks for writing posts worth riffing off of! I was also thinking about the importance of letting go of my perfectionism when it comes to sharing my home and my life with others. I’ll be curious to hear whether you are able to think about your preparations in a new way.

    Celina, thank you for reading and letting me know!

    Katie, we do want things to be shiny and perfect, don’t we? I think churches are especially susceptible to this, and it’s something we need to let go of! It’s hard for broken people with dirty feet to enter “perfect,” shiny places, and it’s also hard for the people already there to expose and deal with their messes. (Thanks for pointing me to the song—who knew people were writing music about dirty feet?!?)

  • ed cyzewski

    One thing I’m trying to do is plan a bit more for the kids and create fun stuff for them to do rather than trying to make things perfect for the adults… though I’m still aiming for “clean”… :)