January 23, 2007


Over the weekend, my dad installed a new sink in my kitchen, and of all the projects we've done to my new house, this has to be my favorite. Having two basins and a faucet that rotates has made my life better, turned me into a calmer person. Not to mention cleaner -- I stopped doing dishes about two weeks ago as a matter of principle until we got the new one installed.

Saturday evening, with the rest of the chores completed and my new sink waiting for me, sparkling, I decided to start tackling the big job of washing every plate and cup, pot and pan I had used and left waiting. I started at the front of the pile, washing tupperware tumblers and sticky silverware. I scrubbed a few bowls and plates, trying to remember what I had eaten on them several days before. And before I knew it, the dish drainer was full.

It was about 9:30 p.m. at this point, and though I desperately wanted to have the dishes done, to cross the job off the list, I was exhausted and decided to stop there for the night. I didn't have to wash ALL the dishes done in one day. Afterall, it had taken me two weeks to get them all dirty. At least everything else was done. Or was it?

I walked past the laundry room and found two loads of clothes and towels that needed to be folded, and a few sweaters that needed to be put away. The sink project was not exactly finished either, come to think of it. My dad needed to do a little more work to solve a small leak in the plumbing. And then there are the thank you cards from Christmas that I still need to finish. Is one month too long to get them mailed? Plus, I'm also in the middle of about five books. All of them great, none of them finished.

Sometimes, all I want to do in a day is get things done. Like today at work, I kept getting new projects added to my list, and none of the old ones were being completed. In fact, when I go in tomorrow, I'll be right back in the middle of many tasks. That feels frustrating to me at times.

Getting things done, however, has become too high of a goal for me, and for a lot of us moderns. And in the process of getting a lot of things done, we hardly take a minute to think about what it is we're really doing, or what effect it's having on us or those around us. Sunday at church, my Sunday School class talked about the lack of love we demonstrate toward one another because we're too busy doing things. And one of the biggest impediments in my quest for Sabbath rest is trying to finish things up that I didn't get done on Saturday.

Leaving things undone has become a kind of spiritual discipline for me. My worth, my identity, is not dependent on the things I do. I am measured by who I am becoming in Christ, how HE is completing his work in me. Likewise, if I can never relax until my to-do list is finished, then I will never find the true rest Jesus offers through his finished work on the cross.

Tonight is looking pretty good for getting to the bottom of the two-weeks worth of dishes I stockpiled. But don't worry, there will be more dishes after dinner. And if they have to wait until tomorrow, that's ok, too.

"There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind
that the God who started this great work in you
would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish
on the very day Christ Jesus appears."
-- Philippians 1:6 from THE MESSAGE


L.L. Barkat said...

Trust me, I would consider it a high ministry if I came to your house and was privileged to eat off a clean dish. Some things it's just okay to do.

(Oh, and btw, exactly how many dishes do you own, in order to be able to put them off for that long? My, oh my...)

As always, I like your spiritual applications, though. You can make much of small things (Flannery would be so proud!)

km said...

Oh, I totally hear you on this one...last night I went home to work out and pick up the house and ended up injuring my prego self and sat on the couch all night! But it's good to be reminded that stuff to do can wait.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Amen to your post! As well as to what L.L. says.

It is important to not get so worked up about what we're getting "accomplished". I remember a very godly man and great teacher at a school, also the pastor of the church on campus, who told me he was at least weeks behind on getting things done. But he seemed entirely relaxed, and seemed to be a person who definitely knows what it means to rest in the Lord. (I was a student there, so got to somewhat know him, and watch his life)

Thanks! And happy dishwashing, etc.!!

For now... said...

Thanks for the post. I have been in that spot too often. Getting things done just to feel the satisfaction of crossing them off my list. Knowing I need to read my bible ( I am reading through the Message this year..started in June... and am 2 1/2 months behind, ugh! I just admitted that out loud!), I put it off to get to my perpetual list. I am working at not having my list at the top of my list. Lots to think about in your post, thank you.

Erin said...

There's that shiny new sink! Do I see the faint reflection of a robed and winged creature wearing rubber gloves and bearing dish soap? ;)

Christianne said...

Love this post, Charity. Like others have said here, it gives so much to chew on! (And I don't mean food like the kind that used to be on your dishes...!)

I really appreciate the perspective you are cultivating in your life about Sabbath rest. I haven't been around your blog long enough to know what that is fully about for you, but just the posture you've demonstrated in this particular post tells me you're someone who likely has a calming and gentling effect in being around. I like that in a person. A whole lot.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark Goodyear said...

Charity, this speaks to me a lot right now. Sometimes I get in the habit of running on autopilot. Just doing a million things I don't know why I need to do.

I clean the dishes obsessively, though. After dinner, the dishes are a way for me to unplug and just wash. It's cathartic for me somehow. And I have a headset on my cell phone so I can call people.
: )

I was reading some Randy Ingermanson last week. He said he wrote a personal mission statement because he had trouble saying no to things. He didn't know what he should not do because he hadn't clarified what he would do. Once he did, he could say no to anything that didn't match his vision.

So then, Sabbath rest is the time when we clarify what we will do. We remember our mission. And remembering what I am here to do--that is, worship God and glorify him--remembering that allows me to say no to some other things.

L.L. Barkat said...

(to comment above) I have this awful feeling that my mission statement would be really long and hard to decipher... oh, but what a great idea... I'll be dreaming on that in the days to come.

Charity Singleton said...

I thought I should let everyone know that I did finally get all the two-week span dishes done. But alas, a little eating and drinking last evening has left me with more. This stack is not nearly as overwhelming, though. I'll get them done in a few minutes later.

To LL's question: I don't own as many dishes as one might think one needs to go two weeks without washing them. I like to cook, but don't do it every evening. Thus, some days all I dirty are a cup and bowl. I have to admit that I used a couple of paper plates during the two-week strike, also.

Charity Singleton said...

km -- Hope you are feeling better. Sometimes an evening on the couch is the best thing ever.

Ted -- I also have learned a lot from the people in my life who were able to let things go, not get worked up over their to-do list. They usually were people with lots to do; it just wasn't an obsession for them. "CALM" is how I think of them.

For Now -- Love the idea of "not having my list at the top of my list."

Erin -- I think you've caught a glimpse of her!

Christianne -- Oh, how I've always WANTED to be one of those calm people I mentioned above to Ted. Thanks for thinking I might be. (I'm working on it!)

Charity Singleton said...

Mark -- I heartily agree that this idea of a mission statement is so important in setting the boundaries of our lives. I don't have a mission statement, per se, but the Lord has been clarifying some of the specifics I am to be about. It's remarkably freeing. Thanks so much for connecting that to Sabbath so clearly. My Sundays are evolving thanks to this ongoing discussion here about Sabbath.

AIMEE said...

I love your posts and will now read you regularly. Thanks for the beautiful reminder to be and live life not just do. So much of my "doing" keeps me so focused that I miss the spontaneous joys happening around me. The old tyranny of the urgent! Thanks!

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