greater sacrifice

before i dive into a different holy week post, i wanted to share something important related to yesterday’s easter hope(less).  i definitely didn’t write it for everyone. many are in a really good place related to easter and it’s okay to enjoy it! i’ve noticed that some of us can have survivor’s guilt when it comes to faith. i just want to honor this important thing: we all have our own unique stories that are unfolding in different ways. the best thing we can do is be as true and honest to those stories no matter what they look like and be safe enough to honor others’ as well. 

with that, i wanted to share a reprise of a post i wrote 3 easters ago for maundy thursday. even though i can say i have inched toward receiving better, i hope over time it can grow in depth and freedom.  i am guessing i might not be the only one who’s better at giving than receiving?

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a new command i give you: love one another. as I have loved you, so you must love one another. by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” – john 13:34-35

today is maundy thursday.  in latin, maundy means “command”, reflecting the commands that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room the night he was betrayed.  one of my favorite passages of scripture is john 13-17.  i come back to it a lot, and especially love the story in john 13 of Jesus and the passage in john 13 of Jesus washing the disciples feet as a powerful example of what love looks like. i am often reminded how it’s really not that hard to wash other people’s feet. i have done it before in my christian experience, and while beautiful, it is not that difficult.

on the other hand, having someone else wash mine–well that’s a whole different story. at the start of the refuge we had a foot washing as part of mercy boot camp, an intensive the refuge hosted.  i can say that it was brutally hard for me to soak in the love and sacrifice of my friends as they washed my feet.  i will never forget the experience.

i am also more convinced than ever that for most of us, it’s way easier to give than receive. i know it is for me.  it’s easy to be in the driver’s seat, the place where we are somehow “helping” or “loving” someone else., the place where we get to offer our love, our time, our resources on someone’s behalf.  and i do believe a big reason why the “missional” conversation is popular right now in the wider church is that it is calling out God’s image in us that many modern systems have been neglecting in terms of spiritual formation–to love with more than just words.  to enter into the places no one else wants to go and offer hope and help in really tangible ways.  and of course, i’m not saying that’s easy.

but i definitely think receiving is much harder than giving.

this powerful story of Jesus washing the disciples feet and calling us to do the same reminded me of how much humility it requires to let someone else wash ours.  to humble ourselves and let others’ “good” in, too.  to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to receive.   to respect and recognize what a huge barrier pride, control, and power really are.

yeah,  giving is important. serving is important.  sacrificial love is important.  and on special days like this it seems easy to get convicted by all the focus on sacrificial love and think maybe i just need to give more.

but what if the greater sacrifice is to let someone else wash our feet, instead of us washing theirs?

to receive love instead of give it?

to be like the disciples, and let the least likely person in the room pass love on to us?

true community, true love, is about washing each other’s feet.  loving others.  letting others love us.   the missional conversation is not complete with mainly focusing on giving and not teaching about the power of receiving.  receiving from those that we think only need us.  receiving from others who are different from us.  receiving from those just like us.  receiving from the least & the last.

and yeah, one of the prettiest parts of this story is a reminder that we can’t parse it all out and keep God and people separate.  i have no doubt that part of loving God is letting God love us through letting people love us.  yikes, that’s a lot of letting love in.

maybe that’s the hardest part.  maybe that’s why Jesus made this such a big deal.  maybe that’s why most of us don’t learn this in churches because most leaders don’t know how to receive and our human default is self-protection.  many of us only know how to give.  because it’s safer.  easier.  far more comfortable.

receiving from people, receiving from God are not my strong points.  and in these moments of intentional reflection and a steeping in the gospel stories i am painfully aware of how truly annoying the ways of Jesus really are when they get under your skin.

so today, this maundy thursday 2013 i am grateful for Christ’s reminder of what love looks like.

not just giving, but humbly receiving. too.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I think the foot washing at mercy boot camp might have been one of the most humbling & profound experiences in the 7 years of the refuge. So beautiful & sooo hard.

  • Hooray for being able to reference a post from 3 years ago, haha. 😉 “to humble ourselves and let others’ “good” in, too. to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to receive.” <—- ooh to this line. Three times this week alone (that I can actively recall off hand), I have rejected help for no real good reason other than just…not wanting to need anything? Receiving is so so hard, because in doing so I acknowlege my humanity, in which I have potential to be rejected. I was just telling a friend this week that I have this huge fear of having anyone go out of their way for me, as it taps into my neglect wound. When I said it out loud (well, texted), it actually diminished some of the power of it all. Hooray for layers and layers (aaaand layers) of healing. 🙂

  • It’s an important issue you raise Katthy and I don’t want to sound dismissive of it. At the same time I want to be able to say something light hearted and for that to be embraced as well. A joke I make sometimes is when people serve me is I sit back, relax and say I am doing people a favour by allowing them to do that for me, because of the blessings they will receive for haveing shown an act of service that they woudn’t have got otherwise if I hadn’t done this “favour” for them. (I’m smiling with a frindly twinkle in my eye).

    On a more serious note and in keeping with what you say – what I have come across many times is people not feeling they can be loved. so many differen reasons for that, some social conditioning, some down to personal expereinces. But people feeling they have to earn that or gain approval etc rather than just being loved for who they are. Think about it this way, a baby doesn’t do anything for anyone but they are loved by their parents and family, right? Perhps some folks feel that if they are served there will be something expected of them in return that they don’t want to be under the burden to provide?

    As we go int Easter, we will be remebering Jesus and his gift of himself. Soemtimes showing grace is to welcome a gift or service thankfully, not to say no – I’m doing perfectly fine and I don’t need you or your service.

    I understand for people who don’t feel they can be loved, it can be difficult to let love in and easier to put up walls, keep people at a distant. And yes love is risky we hurt and we hurt others when we let people in and others let us in at times, but we also expreince the beatuy of being loved and loving others. The benefit of that outweighs the cost :).

    • yes, so true, the benefit outweighs the cost and how good it is to learn to let love in. to really let it in. in all kinds of scary ways. thank you.

  • Thanks so much Kathy. I was just thinking about Mercy Boot Camp. I remember the morning of our last gathering and God put on my heart about feet washing. I thought..oh way! Then I went to our group and you talked about washing each other’s feet. I was assigned to one of the guy leaders to wash my feet. He recognized right away
    that I was having trouble with the whole thing. He knew my woundedness from my Dad.
    He was so kind. He said I will wash anything you feel comfortable with. He washed my hands with tenderness and compassion. When I got home I just cried and cried. The vulnerability I felt that day was incredibly scary but I also felt closer to Jesus than ever before. I will never forget it! Thank you!

    • i am so glad you shared in that experience. it was so wonderful and we need to talk about another one like that, maybe next year. it really stirred my soul, too.

  • You are oh so right about it being easier to give than to receive – anything.

    We are commanded to love, and to love means to do. But in order to do, we must have someone that we are ‘doing’ for. Part of being a disciple of Christ is to allow others to be disciples also, to allow them the pleasure of doing/serving.

    Somewhere I read this and was able to apply to a situation in my life. I have a mother-in-law that won’t let us do anything for her. She used to believe that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ It is so very hard to admit one needs help. I ‘practice’ with my husband. I let him do things for me that I can easily do for myself. Especially when I am sick! I don’t require nursing so much when I am sick, unlike he, but I let him anyhow.

    It is humbling, and I think that is what we need most of all.

    • thanks so much for sharing. i try to keep “practicing” too….it’s getting easier for sure but i am always amazed at how my natural reflex is so contrary. i love your last line, so true, i know it’s what i need most of all….


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