“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”
~ Jesus Christ
It’s been several years now, and I still don’t know her name.
That thought occurred to me just yesterday, when I drove by the scene of my accident for the first time in months.
She was the woman who stood in the ditch, while I was trapped in my broken car. She held a blanket up to cover my broken van window, to keep me warm. She stood with her back against the icy gusts, while inside, the blood ran warm down my legs.
I was in tremendous pain, and thus, never once asked her to tell me her name. And I couldn’t see her face.
I do know this: she was wearing a skirt. I know it because someone told me later that she belonged to a church where the women adhere to particular dress codes. I think now about how that January wind must have been whipping up her skirt, gnawing at her legs, as she stood outside my shattered van window. She was both my Aaron and my Hur, holding up a blanket for how long? Thirty minutes? I don’t know.
I remember how my van landed in that ditch. I was driving south on an ice-patched highway. An oncoming car lost control and swerved into my lane. I felt my body tense as the glass shattered and the steel crumpled. The van spun. I ended up in the ditch, facing north.
I felt wind slapping my face, and that is how I knew I was alive.
I didn’t know what to pray, but perhaps in times like these, your spirit knows that the most rudimentary words are plenty sufficient. I said them over and over again, rocking back and forth against the steering wheel: Help me, God. Help me, God. Help me, God.
No one would have blamed her if she’d driven past. Several others had already pulled over to help. She had good excuses. She was on her way to somewhere, to do a thing, to see a person.
And aren’t we all?
And she was wearing a skirt.
No one asked her to be a hero. No one would have blamed her for driving past.
Someone told me later that she had an extra blanket in her trunk, just in case she’d ever need one.
She was an answer to my primitive prayer. She was a modern-day Good Samaritan who stood ankle-deep in snow to keep a stranger warm. I remember saying a muffled “thank you” from the warmer side of the blanket, while the paramedics tried to figure out how to extract me from the van.
Finally, the paramedics carried me through the passenger-side door on one of those stiff boards. They covered my face until they loaded me into an ambulance.
I didn’t get to see her face.
Sometimes you might never know the name of the stranger who enters your life for the sole purpose of washing your feet.
And if you’re the foot-washer, you know it before you start: they might never see your face.
But the truest saints serve anyway. The truest saints are little Jesuses, giving up position and power and comfort for the privilege to help their fellow man.
That’s what the Teacher did. He gave up heaven for the grit of earth. He walked straight out of the throne room, and picked up the basin. He was the only one in the history of forever who was worthy to be served, but this is what He did instead:
He put on an apron. He knelt. He washed feet.
All these years later, I think about that woman with the blanket every now and again, though not as often as I should.
I suspect she watched as the ambulance drove off down that Iowa highway. I imagine her, something like a snow angel, shivering and wet as that wind whipped across an open Iowa field.
The sirens fade. She’s like a silhouette in my mind’s eye. But I see it in her hands, the blanket that hangs at her side.
If I look closely, I can—at last—see her face. She looks a lot like her Teacher.
Jennifer Dukes Lee used to cover crime, politics, and natural disasters as an award-winning news journalist in the Midwest. Now, Jennifer uses her reporting skills to chase after the biggest story in history: the redemptive story of Christ. Soon, her words will make their way into her debut nonfiction Christian book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes.She and her husband live on the Lee family farm in Iowa with their two daughters.
To learn more about the author, please visit Jennifer Dukes Lee
Featured image: The Last Supper