My Grandmother's Towel
by Svetlana Papazov
My early childhood memories often clamor for attention as pictures, sounds, and smells bounce in my head. I see images of dolls gathered in circles, feel their wrinkled dresses as I settle them for a story time, and hear myself reciting captivating tales for hours on end.
I made sure that no toy was left outside of the circle. Even the ones without a hand or a foot were included. Some dolls were quite old and looked disheveled but that didn’t border me. I guess I loved the tattered once just a bit too much. I made sure there was always room for them in the laundry basket—my makeshift amphitheater for storytelling. They comfortably sat in the company of the rest of my newer dolls.
One time I got really sad because my beat-up but favorite doll was gone. That doll had a chunk of its cheek missing but I didn’t care. It was a very important toy to me. As a matter of fact, every doll was very important to me regardless of how many dolls I had. My older sister often asked me if I am ready to give up some of my falling apart, scruffy dolls that cluttered the toy chest but I absolutely refused to do so. When I discovered that my doll-friend went missing I turned the whole house upside down but didn’t find it.
Sometimes later I realized my sister had gathered my oldest, and what she considered useless toys, and had thrown them away. Before you judge her too harshly, the doll I am talking about looked horrendous but in spite of it, or maybe because of it, somehow I loved it the most. Now my trusted doll was gone. I was undone and cried my heart out. My sister was as devastated as I was. She’d realized she had thrown away something that looked of no value to her because it was broken beyond repair, yet her sister loved it beyond any other treasure she owned. That day we both learned a lesson in love and value.
My tears kept gushing out as though a faucet was opened up at full blast. Surely my sister tried to console me but I don’t remember it. It must’ve not worked. What I remember was a comforting, childhood smell connected to my most miserable days. The smell of my Grandmother’s towel! My grandma’s apron towel smelled more like wet plates than a fine handkerchief but there was nothing more soothing to my crying eyes than her towel’s gentle wipe.
My grandma didn’t blame the source of my tears. She never argued my tears away. She only lovingly, patiently cleansed my face with the softness of her towel. And as a little kid I knew that just in a little bit things will be well again. There was never any pretense with my grandmother, nor judgment and presupposition of my guilt or innocence. Whenever I was devastated and messed up and tears rolled down my cheeks, there was grandma with her towel, wiping my misery away, loving me kindly and completely.
Every time my grandma picked up her towel she silently and profoundly taught my sister and me a lesson in love and value. Just like Jesus did. He loved us to the end and before he ascended to the highest place in heaven he knelt to the lowest place on earth—at the feet of his enemy, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
“3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his robe, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” John 13:3-5.
Jesus took off his robe of dignity and took on a towel of vulnerability. Only then he was able to kneel before his messy neighbors. Jesus truly loved us to the end and left us an example to follow. For when we come into God we come to serve. We are invited to take a towel and do as Jesus did—wash messy feet. When Jesus knew he was elevated to the highest position he knelt to the lowest and became a servant. Are we ready to serve our neighbor as Jesus did?
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Dr. Svetlana Papazov is a thought leader, author, professional speaker, and senior pastor. She is the founder of Real Life Church and Real Life Entrepreneurial Center, a first of its kind model of church and business incubator that connects faith and entrepreneurship. Her new book “Church for Monday” (September 2019) talks about the Church that equips believers for work on Monday and fosters the creative streak placed in every one of us from God, practices corporate public faith by uniting worship on Sunday with the mission on Monday.