I don’t so much mind scrubbing dishes and loading the dishwasher as much as I do actually putting the clean dishes away. There’s something therapeutic about the act of scrubbing away the grime while standing over the sink, seeing progress. There’s lots of time for thought, prayer, and reflection while wiping mess away from plates, pots, and pans. Even when the back starts aching and the feet and knees start feeling the heavy load, there’s hope that time for sitting down isn’t too far away because the dishwasher will take care of the rest. But then, after locking the door and letting the machine do the best work of making these once dirty dishes good as new and after wandering about for what always seems like a very, very long time and after forgetting about those dishes because of the fact that I trusted they’d come out clean, I’m reminded of something. Those dishes won’t put themselves away in all their appropriate cabinets. That’s my job. I have to do the bending over and the reaching down to pick up what was once made messy by yours truly and I have to be the one to put these things away. Most of the time, I think I’m done with the process of getting it all clean. But then, I find I’m not. My hands need to give them a minimum of one more touch before I can put them in the spot that they’re meant for. Then, they’ll sit stacked as shining offerings for a fresh spot to ingest things that will nourish me.
When I’m dealing with something truly grimy, piled up, and not so pretty, I often find myself feeling similar to my dish washing routine. When you can see progress being made in life’s piles, hope that the pile will be tidied is evident in the process. But when you’ve left the pile to be thoroughly cleaned and then have to do the work of again picking up those things which left you overwhelmed, a bit nauseous, and tired in the first place, it can take an extra boost of willpower to deal with them.
I love the end result of seeing my dishes in their proper stacks, all clean and orderly. But I do not love the process of digging through clean, unorganized dishes and looking around to find where they belong, and making several trips back and forth to the dishwasher to bend over and move things around, once again.
Sometimes, we use the plates, cups, or utensils straight out of the dishwasher. But the thing is, they get dirtier faster that way and still require the same process that I wish to avoid. If I don’t put things away in the first place, well then, my dirty pile gets taller and taller and then I’ve actually got to do several loads, which creates even longer periods of dealing with these dishes and eventually the need to put them where they belong again.
God wants us to work with him on the dishes in our own sinks. We don’t have the capacity to wash everyone else’s dirty dishes or to put them where we think they belong. But we do have the ability to run our own messes under streams of living water as the grime goes in the tomb and we leave the rest of the bits we can’t get off to run through His power. Then, we must pick up what He has made clean and slide it into the cupboards of our souls to stand tall and fresh as reminders of what He has done to scrub away the filth.
The Lord wants us to lay our burdens down. He wants to transform them. And then, God wants us to pick up the new thing He has done and to put it where the old thing was in the cabinets of our hearts. Vital in the process of hearts being made new is the grasping of the fresh thing. It’s through the motion of picking up the new thing that we testify to the order God has brought to once cluttered, dirty hearts.
When we bend over and search for where the fresh thing belongs, it might feel tiring again because we thought we were done with that when we handed it over for the high-powered washing. But when we reach with our hands to grab what was once caked with grit and grime to put the transformed piece where it belongs, we can find rest and refreshment that the good work has been done.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19