I remember walking across the stage nervously and seeing the encouraging smile coming from Dr. Teague with his outstretched hand, waiting to congratulate me. It was graduation day at LBC. I made it! I got my graduate certificate. I was done. And then I was given a towel. A towel? A clean, white towel with the red words emblazoned on the front, “Christ, our example of servanthood.” I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. So, I tried my best to keep it clean, preserved and protected. I brought it back to my office and put it on a shelf next to my certificate, safe from misuse.
Me keeping a towel clean was harder to do than it sounds. You see, I work at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as staff chaplain and groundskeeper. It’s a bi-vocational position, really. My undergraduate degree is in parks management, so I spend my days working on the grounds. This affords me the opportunity to mingle about the Faire and connect with people relationally. I counsel, do crisis-intervention and provide a sacred presence in a secular world.
Because of the dust, dirt and grime, my office isn’t the cleanest of places to say the least. Remember Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown? Yea, that’s my office floor – sort of a cloud of dust when you walk on it. My computer died a few years back because the fan sucked in too much of the brown fog.
Which gets me back to my towel. Over time, it became part of the dust, dirt and grime of ministry, as I used it to clean dirty equipment, wipe my hands after a task or cleanup a spill. Like the sandals that Jesus wore, my towel became caked with mud from use and abuse.
One day, sitting in my office, I looked at this now well-worn towel and realized that keeping it clean was never the point when it was entrusted to me so many years ago. A servant’s towel, if used, is anything but clean. As chaplain, I serve in the trenches and my towel now reflects the dirt and grime of serving. It is a reminder to me that ministry is messy and servanthood means getting your hands dirty.