It’s fun to journey down the rabbit hole of bitterness. Everything goes according to plan in that wonderland of justice. Everyone gets theirs and I am the queen, shiny and right. I have done nothing wrong and, therefore, justified in my revenge. My rally cry “off with their heads!” as my hands are elbow deep in dish soap bubbles and clanking silverware.
I hate washing dishes.
In the not so distant past when I lived in a land without a dishwasher, I noticed that while hand washing dishes my mind would frequently drift off into the realms of my bitterness. Usually, recollections of some past hurt would come up and I would begin to journey down a spiral of anger into an alternative universe in which everything turned out according to MY plan.
That’s the thing with menial tasks such as dish washing. The simplicity of the ritual allows for your mind to wander. If you are not careful the mind wanders to places better left for fairy tale villains.
When we moved into this house and I realized that, for the first time in my life, I would actually have to wash every single dish by hand I was overwhelmed. I had to swallow my pride and accept the fact that I was going to have to wash dishes every day and I was going to have to do it with a joyful heart.
It was time to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty.
Months went by in which dish washing time meant time for me to deal with all the dirt and grime crusted onto the insides of my heart. Unfortunately, it often turned into a pity party beginning with my whiny attitude towards the fact that I had no dishwasher.
Sometimes I had help washing the dishes
Shortly after moving in, we began a pattern of inviting people to come and live in our home. Sometimes they were strangers and sometimes they were loved ones.
Inviting people to come and live in your house is completely contradictory to what society tells us is appropriate. We are to be wary of people entering into our personal space. Your home is your castle and we are taught to protect that castle; protect our families from the dangers of strangers.
These days it is even frowned upon to have family living with you. The thought is that family living in your home is too close for comfort. Of course, there are situations in which it really is dangerous to invite someone into your home; I am not making light of those sensitive issues. I’m just saying that most of the time when we told someone that we had opened up our home to xyz person, we were met with stares of bewilderment and criticisms of “you all are crazy” or “are you sure that is a good idea?” We just felt that God gave us this big, old house that really was too much house for us. It is our responsibility to put it to good use and if someone needed a place to crash we would open up our doors.
Living with other people in your house is hard.
There, I said it. Living with new people, no matter who they are, is challenging for both parties. You could be living with your best friend and still find conflict. Everyone has their views on how life should be lived and there is always a period of adjustment as both parties get acquainted with each other’s preferences. It can get dirty.
In the last year we have had 6 people live in this house at different times and I found that in their help with washing the dishes they were really helping me wash away some of my bitterness. While washing dishes, bitterness time was replaced with deep conversations with these loved ones.
Perhaps these menial tasks exist to slow us down and give us time to think and maybe to connect with other human beings. As I look back over this last year and all who have lived here, a vast majority of my memories take place in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes together while we attempt to clean out our souls through deep conversation; through getting to know each other. If you want to get to know somebody and help them, and I mean truly know them, you will probably have to get your hands dirty. You will probably have dishpan hands. You will probably have to do grunt work that you just don’t want to do. But it will be all the worthwhile. It is totally worth it to help someone out during a sticky situation. I’m willing to do the work if it is the least bit helpful in keeping someone clean.
But truly, truly I was the one who was getting washed clean.
Dish washing time had once been a time of resentment that would spill over into the evening and onto my family. But when other people start washing your dishes for you, you feel kind of silly complaining about something so small when there are others who are struggling with much bigger problems than a lack of a dishwasher. With the help of some loved ones, it had become a time of personal growth for me. The humility that comes from other people helping you out gave me a clear head to stare my bitterness in the face and see it for the wicked witch that it was.
We live in a dishwasher world, we want to rinse things off quickly & let the machine do the work. When I entertained the bitter beast that lived in my imagination, I thought I was helping myself. A quick little trip to the land of revenge should make me feel better about my pain. “A quick little rinse should be enough to get these dishes clean.” But in the real world, the steel scouring pad is the weapon of choice for deep cleaning.
Just like the bitterness, my pride was being scraped as well. I learned a lot of good, strong, and hard life lessons by opening up our home to temporarily help people out. There are always bumps in the road when someone comes to stay with us. Some days are better than others just like some dishes just need a quick wipe down. But then there are other days when you feel like God is taking that scouring pad and scraping off your pride. But no matter how it ends I am always pleased with what God has taught me through the process. The dishes always look cleaner when you take the time and wash them by hand.
Jan Hassler said:
This is poignant and beautiful! It reminds me of the story of Brother Lawrence….who wrote of MANY God lessons & encounters as he did the menial, everyday tasks around a monestary….
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Remodeling House and Heart said:
Thank you Jan! I do learn so much through the small things of life. Our house is not a monastery…. but maybe it is….in a way….