“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
“Mom, can you help me out? Would you dry the dishes?”
As soon as she asks me, I can feel resistance rising up on the inside. I don’t like drying dishes. Drying dishes may be my least favorite chore in all the world. Next to raking leaves.
I try to be a grown-up about it. I dawdle around the kitchen for a bit, not really acknowledging her question. It feels like role-reversal.
“Mom?” she is asking me again. “Would you rather wash?”
I would. I would rather wash. “Yes,” I say to my grown-up daughter. “I would rather wash.”
“You like washing better than drying?” she asks me. I do. I’d prefer to wash the dishes, if it’s dishes that need doing. I’d rather have my hands in the warm water, the scent of dish detergent wrapped around my head. But I pick up a towel, and I start drying the clean, warm dishes my daughter hands me, or places on the countertop beside the sink when she is done rinsing them under the stream from the faucet.
She has been baking; co-creating with God, whose image resides deep inside and coaxes creativity out of her. The measuring and stirring and blending and mixing have resulted in a casserole dish filled to the brim with coffee cake batter, and now the oven warms my right hip as I stand beside it with a clean glass bowl in one hand, and a dish towel in the other.
Standing at that stove, just moments before, my daughter poured the batter from one mixing bowl into the casserole dish and then she spooned batter from another glass mixing bowl on top of the batter in the casserole dish. The batter from the second bowl was darker, flavored with maple and vanilla, and when my daughter took a knife and cut the top layer of batter through the second layer of batter in the casserole dish, the two combined themselves in patterned swirls that reminded me of when we used to squeeze droplets of food dye into pools of dish detergent and watch the colors fold into each other.
Standing at the stove, cutting one batter into the other, my daughter had giggled a bit.
“What’s funny” I had asked.
“It’s just so pretty,” she’d answered me. And it was. And what she felt on the inside of her as she created art from flour and butter and eggs and sugar, is so very close to what God felt when he knelt down or bent over and scooped a handful of clay from the earth around his feet and fashioned her. And you. And me. I imagine God giggled just a bit when he looked at you, and God said, “Wow! She’s just so pretty!”
And then God placed you here to get to know him and to love him and to help him let the world know how much he loves them, too. He invited you to join him in the work of redeeming and restoring the world. Sometimes, that work looks like mixing coffee cake batter into swirls in a casserole dish, and sometimes that work looks like drying the dishes.
In the end, though, we all get cake. And we get to stand together in the kitchen with warm water running from the faucet and swirly batter baking in the oven. We get to join God in the work of kingdom building and of loving him and others well.
The work of our hands is an act of worship, and the extension of the character of God in us. I told my daughter all of this, when she stood by the stove and giggled for joy at the beauty of batter. And then, I promptly forgot it when it came time for someone to dry the dishes.
We are tempted to rank the projects God invites us to, and we give more weight and glory to some chores than to others. I want the jobs that make me giggle because I find joy more quickly there. But, standing beside my daughter at the sink that night, drying the dishes she’d made clean, I slowly settled in to the rhythm of the task and the conversation and the scent of maple vanilla coffee cake in the stove at my right hip. And God met me there, in the folds of the yellow-striped dish towel I held in my hands.
Do you think of work as drudgery?Do you give more value to some chores than to others? What would happen if you saw even the most menial tasks as an opportunity to partner with God in the work of building his kingdom, here on earth?
Related reading: Try Not to Work, by Douglass Cooper, for The High Calling.