Dirty dishes, thankful heart 

“Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.”

Quote by Goethe, beautiful illustration by Ruth Simons.

These words above my sink are very intentionally placed. When we moved into this house nearly two years ago, I was so excited to have a yard and a place for all my craft and creative endeavors that I didn’t even give much thought to the fact that the house has no dishwasher. Making me the dishwasher. At first, it wasn’t that big a deal (and even now, I try not to complain because I’m abundantly thankful to have dishes and food and a house so I know this is not a very big deal). But nevertheless, my attitude became progressively bitter about doing the dishes. I complained about a task that had to be done and wished for time to do, well, just about anything else.

But then something clicked a few weeks ago. In this little home sweet home of ours, my attitude has been off. When I should have been rejoicing over a warm house to have friends over and a safe roof to fall asleep under, I was complaining and avoiding work.

When I needed to be doing the tasks given to me with joy, I was resisting and seeking laziness that not only perpetuated my bad attitude, but was really stealing future joy.

Lately I’ve learned that this pattern is true in my life: when I resist work and dwell in laziness, I steal my future joy. I set myself up for later frustration and more work than if I had just joyfully accepted the task at hand.

I must learn to love what must be done and stop seeking laziness. That sounds almost contradictory: seeking laziness. But that’s essentially what I was doing most of the last year. Seeking after my own comfort in a way that was lazy and unintentionally stealing future joy.

I saw this happening with the dishes, and with cleaning in general. I would let the dishes pile up and pile up, because it was easier (lazier) to just add a dish to the pile. So after a week of piles of dishes and a very distinct smell, I’d roll up my sleeves with a bitter heart and angrily scrub the dirt off. My heart was essentially mimicking this scenario: avoid the true work, wait until something has to be done, then do it begrudgingly with much muttering and frustration.

This month I started doing things differently. Maybe it was a resolution, but really I think it was just time for a change. First, I started spending time in the Word each morning. As simple as that sounds (afterall there’s nothing new under the sun, right?) it really changes the game.

All of a sudden I found myself being changed and softened by drawing near to Him. My frustrations and angry moments were fewer and further between because my heart was being reminded of how good our Father is. That’s the thing about drawing near to God, He’s always going to draw near to you too. The Spirit will produce fruit, and there is more room for that to pour out of your life when you’re daily coming to the cross and putting to death the heart of flesh that constantly rears its ugly head.

So as I found myself seeking Jesus more and more, I found my attitude adjusting slowly into one of eagerness and intentionality, not laziness! I made a goal to go to bed each night with a clean sink. I stop and take five minutes to wash the dishes and put them in the drying rack before I head to bed. I wake up each morning with a clean sink, clean dishes, and a smile on my face as I start the coffee.

I started doing this at the end of December and haven’t missed a day. It’s almost become a fun challenge for me because I know each day I’ll be thankful I did it the night before.

And the thing is, it’s not about dishes at all. It doesn’t matter really if I go to sleep with clean dishes or with a messy house. What matters is that my heart is set on Jesus. And this little area just so happened to be one that needed some heart adjusting.

It’s a small thing, but it was a chance for me to recognize a bad attitude. See, I don’t want to spend my moments seeking laziness and steal my future joy. I want to spend each day seeking after Jesus wholeheartedly, so that I can dwell entirely in the joy He so graciously provides.

I never want to miss the beauty that the Lord has placed in front of me because I’ve traded my joy for frustration or sadness by focusing on what I lack. He is a gracious Father, and these small baby steps of discipline are teaching me to dwell in that more each day!

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