painting by Rebecca Waring

I’m very spoiled. Every morning, as I prepare my husband’s breakfast and pack his lunch, I’m greeted by a clean and in most cases, practically empty sink. How is this miracle accomplished?

I have a dishwasher.

Now, friends…I know that many of you have dishwashers, and perhaps still have a sink full of dishes in the morning for a variety of reasons; company the evening before, many toddlers or perhaps a nursing infant, sickness or maybe you simply needed the night off.

Most of these excuses don’t fit my reality, and quite frankly I enjoy loading the dishwasher. It must be done three times a day and only takes a couple of minutes each time. Gawain makes sure that it is unloaded shortly after each wash cycle is completed, so the job is quite easily accomplished.

I love my dishwasher…as much as one can “love” a material good, certainly not for the sake of the object but how it serves this family. But…something is missing…

Three years ago our family moved from our lovely home in the suburbs, leaving behind family and friends and ventured forth into a whole new world. A life of communal living. I’m not really ready to write about the entire experience; it encompasses far more than a blog post could cover as it spanned two years. I like to refer to it as “a two year grace period.” It was wonderful, though not without challenges…the biggest one for me: NO DISHWASHER!!!!!

Up to that point, I had never been without a dishwasher and I spent many mornings, afternoons and evenings over a sink full of soapy suds washing dishes for as many as 19 people, but never fewer than 9. It was a lot of work and intensively time consuming. I’ve never fell for that line that “it takes more time to use a dishwasher than to wash them by hand.” That statement only applies if you’re washing dishes for 4-5 people a day, and really only counts the amount of time it takes the dishwasher to wash the dishes! The obvious advantage to hand washing dishes is this: when it’s done, it’s done. The dishes are washed, dried and put away. But there are certain advantages to hand washing that are not quite as obvious, and one in particular that I miss–I call it “theology at the tap.”

The repetitive and meditative aspects of soaping, swishing, rinsing and drying allowed me ample opportunity to reflect on morning, afternoon and evening happenings. Quite often, I would gain profound insight regarding problems and struggles. I had a good deal of time to talk to our Lady, remembering that Her hands were hands opened in service to Her family. How often we see images of our Lady…hands opened, streams of grace pouring forth. These were hands that served. So must mine be.

So I would soap and scrub and think. And pray. Quite frequently I would share my observations with my neighbor, which we humorously dubbed my “theology at the tap.” Nonetheless, I was never, ever excited over the prospect of washing dishes yet again, but I always left the sink relaxed and reflective. Dish washing, for me, was rather like aerobics for the soul.

Now I have a dishwasher. I’m quick and efficient at rinsing and loading. I rarely have time to think about anything other than maximizing the amount of dishes I can squeeze into it. One would think that the use of the dishwasher would allow additional time for prayer and reflection; like all things well intended, it has only freed me to accomplish more in the realm of homemaking. In other words, I have a little more time to fold laundry. Thank heavens there’s no end to repetitive tasks! Sorting, folding and stacking have become my new place of prayer.

It’s amazing how our daily tasks serve in perfecting us. So I praise God that I’m allowed to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling”…one load at a time!