I'm going to confess to you a struggle that is so uniquely millennial---Cartoon-Network-watching 90's kid in particular---that many of my readers won't be able to relate: I absolutely detest kitchen gloves. Those yellow, elbow-high rubber monstrosities reek of all the things I hate about the "homemaker" persona. Maybe it's because Mom from the cartoon Dexter's Laboratory---with her clean-freak tendencies and exaggerated mom-bod---couldn't survive without her gloves and was very rarely seen without them. Even as a child, I saw that woman on the screen and vowed I would never become her. I still hate aprons, too. A self-respecting, intelligent woman is not known for her housework. If she must do it---and I didn't want to think I'd ever be in the position where I actually had to do cleaning---then she certainly doesn't need to humiliate herself by donning those gaudy yellow gloves.
Well, as you all know---you're surely tired of hearing about it----God's plan for my early 20's was to thrust me into this homemaker role. Since kids keep being added to our family (which I so thoroughly love), the mess keeps increasing, which I so thoroughly despise. But God is teaching me so much about humility and pleasure and confidence and worth that I felt it might be helpful to share.
A couple months ago, our dishwasher stopped working. It was my fault, certainly, because I put extremely-dirty dishes in the washer without rinsing. Food blocked the tubing for far too long, and it's broken. Lately my husband has had so much on his plate (pun intended) that he hasn't had time to fix it or buy a new one. So I've been hand-washing dishes for five people---three meals a day plus countless snacks---for over two months. (I understand that many women around the world, throughout all history, and also among my friends do not have a dishwasher, so I'm not doing anything impressive.) After a couple weeks of enduring dry skin and weak fingernails, I realized that the wet-hands thing wasn't working for me. I had an emergency pair of yellow rubber gloves in a drawer somewhere, and it was time to wear them.
The unexpected thing about all this is that I have begun to really, really enjoy washing the dishes by hand, yes, even with my gloves. Since I'm super-pregnant and super-tired, I don't clean the dishes every night, so they do indeed pile up; it's how I punish my husband for not fixing the dishwasher yet. (I'm a role-model wife, as you can see.) But when I squeeze out the soap and start the hot water, I truly relish the slowness of the process, the feels and the smells, and the peacefulness of absorbing a good podcast or audiobook...it's all so genuinely cathartic. It's my realistic alternative to a hot bath at the end of the day.
But I've had to wrestle with this huge issue that's plagued me since I first became "homeward in orientation": aren't you worth more than this?
The thoughts continue: Shouldn't an ambitious woman be finding great delight in something greater than washing the dishes? Is this really you, Hope? Who have you become? You should be true to your heart, like all the Disney princesses.
But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced about the freedom of it all. I've been given limitations that spark true creativity, as I've written about before. If all my life is driven by this great and glorious cosmic purpose, that God is uniting "all things in Him, in heaven and on earth" (Ephesians 1:10) and I'm invited to help bring broken people back to the perfect and loving God (2 Corinthians 5), then every single thing I do to that end is extremely important. Also, Jesus calls us to be "last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35), and He totally exemplified that by His others-focused life---epitomized, of course, by His death so that sinners like me could be saved. If I think I'm only worthy of snazzier work than, um, the King who upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), then I've got gnarlier issues to deal with than a broken dishwasher.
Here's why cleaning the home is so significant and important: Housework sustains the home, and the home is the nucleus that drives all the good works we're trying to do. Here in the home, and especially around that crumb-laden table, we are having conversations about truth and compassion and justice and generosity. As we eat pumpkin bread (which dirties many dishes), little minds are thinking deeply about why they exist and what can give them the greatest joy. They're finding motivation to donate their money or create bags for the homeless or make cards for kids who are suffering. They're learning manners that might come in handy if they someday have the chance to plead with a foreign dignitary on behalf of helpless people. They're seeing the imperfection of their parents and learning that messing up is normal but humbling yourself to change is vital.
I don't know what's going to become of my children. Statistically speaking---in today's culture and biblical history alike---I have 0% control over how my kids end up. I can't raise them with certainty about any results in mind, and I'm trying to prepare myself for the kinds of questions that I never want to hear but most likely will. And quantifiably, there isn't a whole lot of stuff going on in these walls and around this table (I've written about that as well.) However, even as I so desperately want to run from homemaking, more than I ever I am becoming convinced that this is really important business. I can't afford to downplay the significance of what is going on in this home.
My worth isn't in being a respected intellectual or even an incredible homemaker; my worth is in Jesus. And whatever He has me doing, whether it offers a salary or not, whether my work uniform necessitates a suit or those wretched rubber gloves...it's all so very important. So I can look at my gloves, my dish soap, and that grody pile of plates and cups and pots and pans, and I can get genuinely excited about the next hour. (It takes that long to wash the dishes when you let them pile up, ha!) I can feel empowered and strong as ever, knowing that I have what I need, I know who I am, and I love it.
Next, for the sake of my poor stained clothes, I really need to go through this whole mental process again and start wearing an apron.
Image from public domain
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today