Originally posted March 23, 2011
One day a few years back, I heard someone tell a child to get their “jiffy feet” back outside. It was a term I’d never heard before, but it struck me as funny, so I needed to hear a little more. I asked what it meant, and as I laughed at its silly definition, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. “Jiffy feet,” the person had explained, is those dusty, dirty bare feet we see on neighborhood children who scurry in and out of a convenience store during summer break: children whose sole mission on that visit is to get a much-coveted slushie or sack of bubblegum or bag of chips with their little handful of loose change.
I remembered vividly my own childhood visits to the Jiffy store (it was a convenience store chain, our “southern-fried” version of the 7-11 ). My sister and I would hunt for soda bottles along the roadside, back when it was safer to do so, and when soda bottles were made of glass. We’d stash those bottles in a box, or in our bicycle baskets, and we’d hurry off to cash them in for whatever candy-aisle delicacy tempted us that day. Did I have Jiffy-feet? You BETCHA. We walked (or pedaled) the mile or so to that little corner store, stirring up clouds of the blackish-gray dust that seems to be just about everywhere in north Florida when the thermometer flips over to spring.
I remembered vividly my own childhood visits to the Jiffy store (it was a convenience store chain, our "southern-fried" version of the 7-11). My sister and I would hunt for soda bottles along the roadside, back when it was safer to do so, and when soda bottles were made of glass. We’d stash those bottles in a box, or in our bicycle baskets, and we’d hurry off to cash them in for whatever candy-aisle delicacy tempted us that day. Did I have Jiffy-feet? You betcha. We walked (or pedaled) the mile or so to that little corner store, stirring up clouds of the blackish-gray dust that seems to be just about everywhere in north Florida when the thermometer flips over to spring.
I remember one early summer, just past “school’s out”, when I had a crush on a little boy named Jerry who lived (how convenient!) about halfway between my house and the Jiffy store. No way was I going to walk by his house looking like summer break, no sir-ee. So I would brush my hair, wash my face, and make sure I didn’t have any peanut butter or jelly on the front of my shirt…and off we’d go, my sister and me, to cash in those bottles for something sweet. Turns out I never ran into Jerry that summer: he’d gone to spend his vacation with relatives, much to my disappointment. But…if I HAD run into Jerry, he’d have seen more than a freshly-scrubbed face and a fresh frilly shirt: he’d have seen my Jiffy-feet. It never, not once, occurred to me to wash them, or to put shoes on them. But those little grubby feet and dirty summer toenails would probably have cancelled out any charms I might have brought to an encounter.
Flash-forward to this past Monday night, during a Bible study I’m in with a lively group of women. I kind of “steer” the study, so for simplicity’s sake I station myself where everyone can see and hear me as we share prayer requests, discuss the study, and soak in God’s Word together. I wanted to present myself well: I was dressed casually but neatly, my hair pulled back, makeup just right, moving us all through the two-hour session. As I tidied up the room after everyone had gone, I bent to pick up a dropped pencil. It was then that I saw them: my Jiffy feet!!!!!! I was mortified. I had spent over two hours greeting and sharing with ladies I admired and loved , perched in a chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs and occasionally swaying a foot (a flip-flopped foot!) back and forth. Surely they had seen! Jiffy-feet, dusty-gray with warm-weather Florida dirt, my carefully painted red toenails rimmed in black.
Before the ladies had arrived, I had to go get ice for the refreshment table. The ice machine was in a nearby building, beyond the point where the sidewalk ends. Where the loose dirt starts. I traveled that stretch in my new sparkly gold flip-flops. Never thought to look down. Now, standing there all alone in that classroom looking down at my Jiffy-feet, I worked through my embarrassment and Jesus gently whispered, “Your feet need washing. Let Me.” Instantly I heard what He was saying to me. I had gone through all the motions for that evening. The class was neat and cool and well-prepared. Refreshments were simple but good. I was neatly dressed and had finished the lesson plan, with time left over. I had done all I could for things to be “right”. But my feet had gotten dirty in the process.
Jesus’ real message to me could not have been clearer. I can do one thing after another in my life in hopes it will run smoothly. I can organize, and gather all the right materials, and wash my face and put on a pretty blouse. I can offer refreshment to others, and have some for myself, and I can pursue a closer walk with God using study helps written by a woman ~ a passionate, godly woman, but a woman. But in the process of pursuing that closer walk, I have to walk in the world. My life these days includes a succession of Bible studies and choir practices and modest Sunday dresses and written words and spoken words meant to please the Father. Like the little girl who used to trade her soda bottles for a sweet treat, I want to trade my Jesus-girl gifts in for the much-coveted sweet treasure of knowing Him more.
I know I’m going to encounter Him along the way. He’s never far off, visiting someone or napping in a heavenly hammock somewhere. I am crazy about Him, and I could run into Him at any moment. But no matter how much I scrub my face, or style my hair, or stack up words and works on His behalf, I always forget about my Jiffy-feet. They get dirty from walking in this life we know. Grubby from greed. Soiled by selfishness. Caked with complacency, and just plain stagnant from pushing Him aside in favor of other things. No matter if it’s Sunday morning or Bible-study night, or any night squeaky-clean from the shower and ready for a good night’s sleep, I am the same as the leper in Matthew 8: in need of a good scrubbing. “Lord,” I whisper, “If You will, You can make me clean.” I stand before Him with Jiffy-feet. “I will,” He says, every single time. “Be thou clean.” And then I am. He washes me over with forgiveness: not just my feet, but (like Peter pleaded ~ John 13:9), from head to toe, and He wraps me in the welcome assurance that I’m clean, made presentable to the Father and once again a suitable representative for Him on the gritty, grimy streets of my daily life.
You may look fabulous today, and you may have a long list of “atta-girls” to your credit for all the good things you do, for people and for Christ. But take a look at your feet, dear sisters. Freshly pedicured? Maybe. Stylishly shod? Probably. Tired from another busy day, or refreshed from a stint in the La-Z Boy?
Doesn’t matter; you’ve still got Jiffy-feet. The spiritual kind, with the grit and grime that only He can take care of. They’re unavoidable, in the omnipresent dirt and dust this life kicks up around us. Allowed to go unwashed for long, these Jiffy feet of ours do more than mess up our look. Jiffy-feet can cripple our walk with God. Right here, right now, in your own spirit, Jesus stands waiting, a basin in hand, a towel over his arm, and a cool and renewing supply of Living Water ready to wash them clean again.