Friday, June 12, 2009

Emptying the Dishwasher and Quotidian Faithfulness

Back in another life, or maybe just before I had baby Linus, I read A Mother's Rule of Life and began attempting to adopt some of Holly Pierlot's ideas to my life. I am not much of a schedule person and scheduling every minute of my day and every activity or chore I could possibly think of was a bit much for me. I started out trying to make my rule look like Pierlot's, and I just couldn't hack it. If I ever tried Fly Lady, I am sure I would fail miserably. Then Advent and Christmas and a new baby came along and even the meager attempts I made to get us organized were replaced with constant feedings and little sleep and complete chaos.

Somewhere in there, I read Kathleen Norris' Quotidian Mysteries and decided there really was something to this idea of living a life of organized faithfulness in the daily things in order to know God better and to honor Him. If God created us as humans with the need to eat and wash and tend the earth, then those must be places where He meets us in our truest humanity. And when our humanity is out of whack, when we are facing spiritual depression, those places are the hardest to be faithful.

As I have struggled with post partum depression, I have seen that the first things to go when I am depressed are the daily things, sweeping the floors, putting away laundry, and emptying the dishwasher. I hate emptying the dishwasher more than any other daily task, and when I am depressed, it is truly a spiritual battle to get up and empty the dishes, even with my kids helping. If I don't, the dirty dishes pile up, I lose my desire to be in the kitchen preparing meals, other chores weigh on me, and before I know it, the house is a mess and my kids and I are grumpy and impatient. It all hinges on that dishwasher.

(I should insert here that I know that serious depression is a whole different matter. Many people need to worry about getting better and not about unloading the dishwasher. But my depression is often a form of spiritual acedia that may be heightened by hormonal or chemical imbalance but is not beyond my ability to manage.)

I don't think I realized when I started this journey of homemaking and motherhood just how much it would refine my soul. In my undergrad years, I was certain I was called to big things, to pioneering mission work in some remote corner of Asia, to really difficult, big sacrifices. I saw that path as the way to spiritual maturity and growth. Martyrdom is the way to go when you are young and single and zealous, I suppose. Who has time for the dishes?

But now I am called to daily faithfulness in the smallest tasks, like putting books back on the shelf and wiping the table after a meal. I spend my days in doing one mindless job after another only to turn around and find that it needs to be done again. There is not one, great sacrifice of life and family. No, I am learning the value of the small, quotidian sacrifices, though I still have a long way to go. You see, the dishwasher is full of clean dishes even as I write this.

When I planned to go to Asia as a young woman, I was ready for the sacrifice of leaving family and all thing familiar. I was excited to live only on faith in a rugged place. I am still going to Asia, still hoping and praying that God will somehow use me to build His kingdom. But I am so much more aware that it will be through little things, through daily faithfulness to the most ordinary of tasks. That quiet life, that slow steady pace. I am far from finding the rhythm, but I am seeking it. I suppose I should start by getting off this computer and unloading those dishes.


Daniel, Laura, Cora Marie, and Eliot said...

That call to the dishwasher IS your way of faithfulness and self-sacrifice (though not exactly martyrdom by dirty plates!), dearest one.
Love you! Hugs from afar...

wheelsonthebus said...

i despise emptying the dishwasher

Nickname unavailable said...

what a great post, friend. i'd like to find that bk.

this past wk has been one of my worst of my life btw... many things emerged to make it the "perfect storm" of a horrible wk... not the least of which was that doug was out of town. he's returned! this mommy thing is so wonderful yet so hard... once again thankful to be doing the 3 boys thing w/you once again!

Nickname unavailable said...

don't know what's up w/my name not being on here!!! it's me rachel!

Catherine said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this - I really really needed to hear it.

I've always been a proponent on focusing on being faithful in the little things rather than getting worked up about The Big Plan For My Life. But I never applied it to housework, for some reason. Thanks.