There they sit – again. It’s been several days since I’ve been able to get to this task. Piled high in precarious positions, for lack of counter space, and filled with water, to avoid dried on food, are my dishes. Every time I pass by them they seem to toss out a line of discouragement to trip me up. The utensils are especially good at scoffing at my lack of headway, as their kind tend to multiply the fastest. The baby is screaming, the laundry is not done, dinner has not been planned (I’ll most likely pick a meal that involves the least amount of dishes possible), the shopping needs to be done, and my dishes are laughing at me.
For some reason, dirty dishes are a daily temptation towards discouragement for me. I hate them. Just this week I was faced with a batch of dishes that I had been forced to let sit for 5 days because of all that we had going on! They stunk, and the dishes that had been filled with water – brace yourselves – had dead flies and gnats floating around inside them. I’ve inherited a bit of germ-consciousness from my mother (which was only heightened during my study of Microbiology), which causes me to cringe at such scenes. I was not happy about being cornered into this job. As I gingerly started draining the insects’ watery graves and sorting my dishes into categories (yes, I wash my dishes in a particular order so what?), I began to moan to myself about the things that kept me from being on top of my work, allowing it to escalate to such a condition.
I have cried over dirty dishes before. I’ll admit it. When they get to a certain level (stacked almost high enough to reach the widow sill above the sink and spread wide enough to cover every last inch of my limited counter space), I tend to freak out. For a moment or two, I feel like I’ll never be able to get them done.
One day though, the Spirit stood right in the middle of a grumbling thought and stopped it short. It was like I was shuffling along murmur lane with my head down and accidentally bumped into Jesus. You know how it is when you’re out grocery shopping looking your absolute worst, and you run into someone you know? Yeah, it felt like that. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Yet, when I looked up and saw His face, I sensed that He understood my frame of mind (Psalm 103:13,14: As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.). So right there, with my prunie hands submerged in water and covered in suds, I began to pour out my heart to my Father about the matter. We talked about how I felt overwhelmed with the work I had to do, how I couldn’t live up to my own expectations, how much I wanted a dishwasher, and finally, how sorry I was for being discontent with my circumstances and for complaining about the work He had given me. And all of the sudden He hushed my anxious spirit. The Spirit came and spoke truth into my heart. Truth such as, “I have not given you more than you are able to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you have dirty dishes when company is over. Spending time with people is more important than a clean sink. Work is good. I created it. I have designed these tasks for you to show you more of myself. I was a servant on earth, and I have called you to be like me in every way. Follow me. Do the dishes with joy, and it will be worship to me.”
I finished those dishes with joy, having the encouragement of the Spirit echoing in my thoughts. I can’t say that I always look at dirty dishes with rejoicing now, but God is definitely teaching me to see the tasks He’s given me, no matter how small, as means of worshipping Him. To God alone be glory.As a side note: The reason I do my dishes in a particular order is because of something Mrs. Sheila Boyce taught me. When my youth group went to Africa on a missions trip we washed dishes by hand the entire time. She told us girls to always make sure and wash our silverware and cups first when the water was at its cleanest since those are the dishes that come in direct contact with your mouth. Thanks Mrs. Boyce. I think of you every time I do my dishes now 🙂