Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Empty Pockets By Cheryle M. Touchton

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. John 13:5 (NASB)

I guess I wasn’t surprised to find my pockets empty. It had been a rough few days on the missionary road. I’d broken down, been lost, and now it was cold and rainy. The campground shower was a half mile away over muddy, rocky, hilly roads. I considered driving but that would mean unplugging my camper van aptly named Hapless. I decided it might not be a great idea to unplug Hapless while standing in mud and rain. Hapless didn’t have a shower so on this cold, blustery day in Rhode Island, I donned my hot pink terrycloth one-piece romper and water shoes and headed to the shower.

I shivered. My bare shoulders were freezing but since I needed my only towel dry, I didn’t wrap it around my shoulders.

Ouch, I thought. My water shoes were no protection against the sharp rocks.

I’m so wet, I don’t even need a shower anymore, I thought as I finally spotted the shower. That last 50 feet uphill seemed like a mile. Visions of my beautiful shower back home haunted my thoughts. What am I doing here?

My sheltie Belle and I travel the country as missionaries. We spend several months a year living in a tiny camper van. My nickname is the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady because I hand out quarters. I talk with people about being spiritually prepared for life and the quarters are a metaphor for being prepared. I say that the quarters represent the free grace of God and go on to explain how to receive that grace. Much of the time, our adventures are thrilling but on weeks like this, I missed my handsome, handy husband and my home.

I entered the bathhouse, anticipating warming up in the shower. Where are the shower knobs? I wondered. I spotted a slot for quarters with a sign that said, “One quarter equals 2 minutes.” I couldn’t believe that this expensive private campground was charging for showers.

I wasn’t worried. Some of my most interesting spiritual encounters happened in bath houses. I always had quarters. I reached into the romper pockets, only to find them empty. The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady didn’t have quarters. My pockets were empty in many ways.

I thought about my options. I could walk back to Hapless and get quarters or beg for quarters. How does one beg? Did I need a cup and a cane? I decided on the direct approach.

“May I borrow a quarter from someone?” I asked. “I’ll drive it back to your campsite later.”

Everyone looked at me blankly. A woman spoke Spanish and I wished I’d paid better attention to that 8th grade Spanish class. My pantomiming was useless and either they didn’t understand or they didn’t want to share quarters. In desperation, I asked again.

“I have two quarters. You can have one of them,” one tiny child said timidly. I didn’t have the heart to limit her to a two minute shower.

I panicked before realizing I had a third option. I could walk to the camp store, which was closer, and beg again.

Do I have the nerve to go into the store in this wet romper? I wondered. I thought about the long walk back and my standards for personal appearance quickly changed.

“I got all the way to the shower, a half mile from my campsite, and I didn’t have quarters. It’s raining and I’m freezing. Can I borrow a couple of quarters? I promise to pay you back,” I babbled.

“Hold on,” the grinning cashier answered. She opened the drawer and handed me four quarters. Elated, I planned my hot eight-minute shower.

I rushed back to the shower and put my first quarter in, only to discover the water temperature tepid at best. I only used two of those precious quarters.

Walking back, hair dripping, I was colder than ever. The remnants of a hurricane named Cindy poured over my shoulders, now draped with a wet towel.

Oh well, I thought. They say rain water is good for hair. I guess I should be grateful there’s no lightening. My sore feet were muddy and I wondered how I’d get them clean enough to enter Hapless.

As I stumbled along that rocky road, I suddenly had a vision of Jesus, walking from town to town.

What were His roads like? I wondered. Like me, Jesus probably wore sandals. Were His soles thicker than mine or did the rocks hurt His feet? How often did He walk in the freezing rain? What did He drape over His shoulders to keep warm? Surely they didn’t have showers. How did He get clean?

At that moment, I pictured Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. I looked at my own muddy feet fresh from a shower and imagined what feet must have looked like after days or weeks on the road.

Would I even be willing to wash someone’s feet? I wondered.

My attitude changed as I began worshipping. I knew God had called me to the streets of America. Weather and vehicle problems were part of the job. I felt honored to be on that road, walking with Jesus. I jingled the two remaining quarters in my romper pocket and knew my pockets were full and overflowing.

When I got back to the camper, I stomped off the mud, turned up the heat, and warmed up. I picked up my tiny silver cross from the table. At the end of my road was a heated camper. At the end of Jesus’ road was a cross.