The dish about finding time with God
“Please don’t give it another thought,” I told her. I knew they were in the midst of their own home improvement project, which had become more pressing as they discovered hazardous materials that needed removing.
Truthfully, there is no hurry on my end. I don’t welcome the idea of allocating a line item on our household budget to an appliance repair (after financing summer childcare and a subsequent huge car maintenance fee).
And while I do like the ease of putting the dishes in the dishwasher, I’m not a big fan of taking them out and putting them in the cupboards. There have actually been clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher since last time I ran it, which was easily more than three weeks ago, maybe even a month or more – I’ve lost track of time during the back-to-school rush of middle-school homework (I learned that I am not smarter than a fifth grader, but I do know how to look things up), making lunches, processing all the paperwork that comes home in three sets of backpacks, and working around a kindergartner who was sick for the entire second week of school – just the other day we found our missing 8th spoon, in the dishwasher (#s 5, 6, and 7 turned up outside, in the man cave, and in the boys’ room respectively).
The other night as my oldest son and I were discussing the bonus incentive part of the kids’ allowance plan, he suggested that loading the dishes could be one of the chores he did. I reminded him, “Our dishwasher’s broken, remember?”
“Yeah, I haven’t been using it.”
“Then how do you do the dishes?”
“The same way I did them as a kid. I fill up the largest container with soapy water, like a pot or bowl, depending on what was cooked. Then I put all the silverware and small items in there. Then I wash all the dishes with the blue sponge – the yellow sponge is just for counters. When I have finished all the dishes…”
“Yuck – that sounds awful!”
“Well, it’s not, really,” I realized as I was explaining this to him. I began to reminisce about my own childhood, when homework and chores were my only concerns. I didn’t tell him about the summer I lived up in Maine and had to heat the water that I had called forth with a large cast iron hand pump on the propane stove in order to do the dishes. The water from the deep well was so cold my hands would ache if I didn’t heat it. I knew my son wouldn’t be able to relate, just as he has no concept of life before cable – or even color – TV, or of when no one considered leaving home with their phones in their pockets because they were hardwired to the wall. “The way I do it probably uses less water than the dishwasher…”
“I don’t think dishes should be one of my chores. Not until the dishwasher’s fixed, anyway. But actually, I hate unloading it!”
“Yeah, that’s not my favorite part, either.” Normally I suggest a different word than ‘hate’ but this time I did not. I guess it runs in the family. “I can teach you how to do the dishes by hand…uncle and I used to switch off every other night…”
“No – I think I’d rather learn how to do laundry.”
That was an intriguing thought. Lately, with football season in full swing, I had started separating the laundry – not the usual way, by colors – but by his and hers. I wasn’t going to put any of my fine washables in with football girdles and socks and the like. I remember thinking in early August when the season started that I had finally discovered something stinkier than a diaper that needed changing.
Plus, I decided I didn’t want to give up doing the dishes: it offers an opportunity to stand in one spot for ten minutes at a time, being alone with my thoughts, and looking out the window over the sink – a break in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
If I choose to look at doing the dishes as an opportunity to re-set, re-focus, and even pray, rather than an unpleasant chore I have to rush through before I move to the next to-do, I can stop feeling guilty that I don’t start my day with devotional readings and that I never seem to find that half an hour of uninterrupted time during the day to mediate or “sit with God.” Standing with God works. For that matter, kneeling on the floor while I clean up the latest mess, whether it be purple grape juice splattered on my white cabinets or the shattered window from the front door that one of my football players stiff-armed, if done prayerfully (“Thank you that I remembered to get Mr. Clean Magic Sponges last time I was at Target” or “Thank you that he didn’t shred his arm”), is time with God. Just a moment – if spent with God – can be the eye of my hurricane.
“He doesn’t need to rush on my account,” I told my friend. “I don’t really mind doing the dishes by hand.”