Doing the Dishes… Hello Hump Day readers. I can almost hear you laughing at this topic—that’s OK, I’m laughing, too. The reason why is from a friend of mine, Bishop Jim Hazelwood, who is a hoot and a fine writer as well. His story about his dish-washer breakdown not only cracked me up, but I found a very interesting spiritual part in of all of this. Hey, it’s Camel Day so just give in to my crazy ideas and have some fun!
When we sold our house and now live as full-time RVers in a big rig, we didn’t miss all the “stuff.” We have everything in this luxury rig—even central vacuum—but, no dishwasher! At first I thought, let’s put one in—but I didn’t want to lose cupboard space. After a while, I just got used to washing the dishes. Al and I do it together sometimes and in those times, we share our day and actually enjoy the task. When I say that, friends look at me sideways and say “really—you wash them yourselves?” Yes, indeed we do and I admit I like it.
Jim Hazelwood shared this old Zen saying: “After enlightenment…the dishes” after he decided to not purchase a new dishwasher and would wash his dishes himself. This brings me to an old Carmelite lay-brother in France, Brother Lawrence (1614-1691). I have read his book, The Practice of the Presence of God many times, I taught on it and used it for Bible study.
Brother Lawrence was funny, drove his Abbott crazy and just about anyone around him because his life was literally a daily communication in prayer and for anyone who wanted to listen. After a while, the Abbott put him in the kitchen hoping it would tone down the annoyance. It didn’t work and it also didn’t deter Brother Lawrence in prayer daily with God. He has prayers about the joy of slicing beets, carrots, and potatoes! And he was delighted to wash dishes—a LOT of dishes daily for all the monks and brothers who lived at the Abbey.
What warms my heart about Brother Lawrence is how he simply loved to do his ordinary work because he discovered joy in spiritual enlightenment which Jim expounds on, saying: I’ve been surrounded by many dirty dishes in the past few weeks…the whole gamut…pristine glasses now stained, porcelain white bowls have rings…all this, not to mention the stubborn rings in the coffee mugs. OK, I could easily run this metaphor down the drain. I think you get the idea…daily life and chores and work have consumed my time. Yet somehow, I took a little solace in those words and Brother Lawrence’s life.
What tasks do you do that seem mundane, something you’d rather not do? Maybe you are missing something sacred in that mundane task. Think of Jesus—he spent 30 earthly years doing carpentry! Yes—Jesus, the One whose words flung planets into their orbits—labored for decades with simple tools to make common objects with his hands. But remember this: in those 30 years he learned about the people around him—how they lived, worked and interacted with one another. Those years were precious guidance for his 3 years of ministry! Jesus “got us” then and still “get’s us” today because He is one of us, both mundane and spectacular all wrapped up in ONE! There’s no doubt that the sacred showed up in his carpentry as well as his ministry.
Jesus challenges our view of mundane activity. In a culture that prizes education and significant, visible, lasting contributions to society, the simple tasks of life and daily care of the vulnerable are not highly valued. Jesus taught that a heavenly reward awaits those who give a cup of water to one of his followers. He taught that the path to greatness was through service, not lordship. He said many who are first will be last, and the last, first. For many of us, that word ‘serve’ means mundane—doing the dishes by hand—yikes!
In closing, let’s go to the Message Bible. In John 8:23-24, the words of Jesus can resonate on this topic and also give us guidance!
“You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives.”
Friends, sometimes the sacred shows up in the ordinary and sadly, we miss it! Keep that as a reminder when you wind up washing dishes instead of pushing the dishwasher button. Take a Zen moment and remember After enlightenment…the dishes! It just may inject the joy we all need in our daily tasks, AMEN!