I actually washed some dishes tonight. Like, two pots. It was pretty amazing. I’m one of those people who stuffs as many dishes in the dishwasher as possible, and if there are any dishes left, they sit in the sink until the next time the dishwasher is run. Call me lazy, call me spoiled, call me a poor housekeeper, but that’s how I am.
Come to think of it, I am spoiled. I mean, even as a missionaries’ kid in Bangkok, we had a maid. Gasp! It sounds bad, like those missionaries are really suffering for Jesus over there, but it’s just a cultural thing. Many people have household help in other places in the world. We also had a neighborhood guard (he was so puny I could have beaten him up, but he did carry a gun) that we had to help pay monthly. So, most days our maid washed the dishes (we never had a dishwasher over there), cooked, cleaned, mopped, did laundry, ironed, etc. I really had very few chores to do (guess I’m making up for it now). But she was off on Sunday, so I helped with dishes Sunday nights. And for the record, the first 2 years of my marriage were spent in an apartment without a dishwasher, so I had my share of dishes to wash. And I never want to be without a dishwasher again!
Though I often look at chores as a drag, there is something about working with one’s hands that brings out a sense of pride one feels at the success of a completed task. My clean dishes, clean sink, and organized kitchen awake an almost spiritual cleansing inside. I just finished reading Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris, and in it she says, “Our greatest spiritual blessings are likely to reveal themselves not in exotic settings but in everyday tasks and trials.” How true. Christianity is not a string of mountaintop experiences; it is the day-in, day-out presence of belief and presence of prayer throughout every mundane moment.
The same metaphor can be applied to writing. Madeleine L’Engle said something to the effect of, “Inspiration comes while working, not before.” Norris agrees: “The activities I find most compatible with contemplation and writing are walking, baking bread, and washing dishes. I like the poet Donald Hall’s theory that poetic meter originates in the steady, repetitive rhythm of arms and legs in motion.”
Even in the midst of repetition, we are all a part of some mystery. And there may we find our inspiration and our salvation.