A friend taught me about greatness….
I lost a friend a little over a week ago. He lay down for an afternoon nap and woke up in heaven. We’re happy for him, he was ready; we’re sad for the rest of us, we weren’t ready for him to go yet.
A large crowd attended a memorial service for Chuck Malik yesterday. There were many memories. Some were shared, more were pondered privately. I have many but one stands out. It was the time Chuck taught me about greatness.
We served together on the church board for many years. We begin our meetings with one of the members taking his turn in sharing some brief devotional thoughts. The devotions are often thought-provoking or inspirational, sometimes not so much, but I confess I don’t remember many of them for very long. There is one, however, from many years ago that I will remember until I see Chuck again.
Chuck’s turn for the devotion was coming up at the next meeting and he gave me an idea what he intended to do. I offered to help (I don’t remember specifically what I offered, but it was likely some very minor supporting role), but he said “No, this is something I want to do myself.”
When the time came, Chuck read the scripture about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and said very little beyond that. He then took a pitcher, basin and a stack of towels and proceeded to wash the feet of all the board members. If you’ve ever had anyone do this for you, you might agree with me that this a little embarrassing and awkward for the recipients. Remember Peter tried to stop Jesus from doing it. But you can’t deny it is a humbling act of service on the part of the foot washer.
As I was driving home from the meeting, reflecting on what had happened that evening, it hit me: No one offered to wash Chuck’s feet. No one. The embarrassment I had felt at having someone wash my piggies was overshadowed by my embarrassment of failing to take the role of a servant when the opportunity was ripe. I don’t think the Lord expects to practice foot-washing regularly, but at that time and in that moment, it would have been the right thing to do. That would have been a powerful symbol of serving one another and I missed it. It really doesn’t make me feel any better to realize that apparently none of Jesus’ disciples offered to return the favor to him either.
The next time I saw Chuck I told him about my thoughts and my regrets. He just smiled.
I’m reminded of a verse in the bible where Jesus addresses his disciples after they had an argument about who was the greatest.
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 (NIV)
I think Chuck demonstrated greatness that evening and, while I don’t think this was his goal, taught me that I’m not there yet.