|Cornell University Library, 1920|
Photo featured in a popular woman's magazine of the time: The proper way to do chores.
The most significant thing that Christ did on this earth? I contemplated it today, heavily, to get through some rough patches in my day. Obviously, His most significant acts were suffering and dying. Many lessons were taught on top of that, sure. Hard ones--like turn the other cheek and lose your life to gain it and rejoice in your suffering and cheerfully give up your resources to help another.
And mothers? I needed to know: what is the most significant thing a mother can do? I pondered it as I struggled with the dishes. They're my least favorite chore because as interruptions occur I have to wash my hands, dry them, attend to a child, and then turn back to my dirty dishes, getting my hands soiled again, only to get interrupted again, starting the cycle over. Only the word maddening works to describe the scene.
Am I happy-go-lucky during the dish struggle? Do I give the moment to God and take what comes, so long as the interruptions seem reasonable? No. The frustration level percolates, slowly rising, and then the dryer bell rings, forcing me to wash my hands and stop the dishes once again. Then as I get the dry load hung up, amid its own interruptions, and go back to the dishes, I get two more loaded in before my three year old falls and needs cuddling. So I quickly wash my hands again, and nurse her tears away in the easy chair.
And then my own tears threaten to fall. I just want to get. the. dishes. done. already. Why is it such a struggle every day, to just do the dishes three times? While I wash dishes who knows how many other women wash them at precisely the same time, around the globe? So why does it send me into such despair--this simple, universal act?
I found my answer today. As my nursling's tears calmed I sat there, silent. I contemplated Christ's most significant act. He died to himself. On the cross...and every day.
Every single day he tired himself out, giving. Little return did he receive, but still he gave, willingly, knowing he would suffer and die at the end of it all. Willingly is such a key word here. He didn't complain or wish all the giving could finally be finished for the day, so he could have time to himself to just read and relax.
Every mother has those things she does well, whether it be playing on the floor, giggling and enjoying the moment, reading countless books, kissing boo boos with style, running a house like a pro, or making everyone consistently accountable. Mothering requires many skill sets and no woman masters them all.
If we're great at some things, good at a few, and mediocre at all the rest, what does growing more like Christ mean, practically speaking, for the stay-at-home mother? I've been a Christian for fifteen years and by now I know my everyday task. Upon waking in the morning, I'm to be a little more like Christ than I was the day before.
And this is precisely why the struggle with the dishes confounds me. Because I don't ever get any cheerier about it than I was the day before. I want to do them my way. As in, efficiently. In one full swoop. I give in to crankiness when it can't be my way: going in there, getting down and dirty for twenty minutes, rinsing them off, loading them up, wiping everything down, getting the machine humming, turning off the light, and leaving.
So in my big blue easy chair today, the Holy Spirit whispered it to me. Graciousness. I want you to work on doing what you don't like--dying to yourself--graciously. Yes, you already work hard. Yes, you don't have a support system in town. No grandparents to take over. No help. No dates to go on with your hubby. And, yes, there's never a let up in the problems and worries.
But still, I want to make a gracious woman out of you, if you'll let Me.
I only understand it perfectly right now, as I type it. Tomorrow when the time for dishes comes, I am to imagine Him on the cross, giving up his life, graciously.
And when the interruptions come, I am to wear a smile. Feel a smile. Live a smile. That's graciousness. In His strength, not my own, I will do it.
Philippians 1:6Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
One day at a time. One conversation in the easy chair at a time, He will make me more like Him. It's not about the dishes or the laundry or the wiping of toilets or the sweeping of floors or the herding of children or the proper style of boo boo kissing.
It's about my heart. About my willingness to take my desires and nail them neatly to a cross, never turning back for a pining look-see, wishing it could be different. I need to walk up there with my nails and hammer, and my pieces of paper that reflect my way of doing dishes, my way of paying bills, my way of raising children, my way of being a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, friend....pounding every last desire onto the tree. Graciously.
Only then, can I be like Jesus.
Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.