My idea of rest does not ever involve chores.
Chores are repetitive.
Only to do again tomorrow.
And yet in this season of rest, I can find no way to avoid them. When I was walking past my neighbor’s house this summer, he announced, ” It’s Saturday! Since I have been four years old, Saturday is chore day.” Sid-The-Neighbor then reminded me of Brother Lawrence and his assertion that if you want to be close to God, wash the dishes.
This is what Wikipedia has to say:
For Brother Lawrence, “common business,” no matter how mundane or routine, could be a medium of God’s love. The sacredness or worldly status of a task mattered less than motivation behind it. “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Brother Lawrence felt having a proper heart about tasks made every detail of his life possess surpassing value. “I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world.” Brother Lawrence felt that he cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world alongside God. One of his most famous sayings refers to his kitchen:
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.” Read more about Brother Lawrence Here.
While Brother Lawrence embodied what it means to bring worship into the mundane, I wanted to bring rest into my dreaded daily tasks. One of the treasures of this time has been seeing what really needs to be done. I am not dusting the blinds or de-cluttering my junk drawer. I am doing the chores that need to be done in order for us to have food, clean clothes, functioning cars, restful days.
I have done these tasks for years. If I am honest with myself, much of drive for simplicity was in hope that someday I could make life small enough that I didn’t have anymore chores. They are so boring. I want to be doing more important things than laundry and dishes. I want to change the world! Who cares about laundry?
I resented these tiny, meaningless jobs that got between me and what I wanted to do with my life. My fear was if I do these jobs, I will be all used up and never get to do what I love. And more days than not, this has been true.
It is becoming apparent that my fears about losing my self in chores echo the fears I had about rest. Both of these practices are required by all living creatures. We must rest. We must work. This is the simplest formula of what it means to be alive.
I struggle with how much rest my body needs. At times I have been resentful, wishing my body could accomplish more. At times I have felt shame, wondering if this means I am lazy. When I am able to see myself through a lens of compassion, I can see that I think/see/function at a very intense level and that requires tremendous reservoirs of rest that I am responsible for filling.
This journey of rest is about letting go of the resentment that being me, being human, has it’s limitations. Rest is the ultimate path of humility. I can’t do anymore. I am not invincible.
Just because I wanted to do something else besides clean my house, doesn’t mean I believe I am too good for such menial tasks as taking the trash out or scrubbing the bathrooms. I am just like everybody else who has to do work to stay alive, healthy, clean and functioning. It’s annoying, but it’s reality.
What if, like Brother Lawrence, I decide to grant loading the dishwasher and filling the fruit basket full of Honey Crisp apples with the same dignity that I so effortlessly give to counseling, writing, and being there for a friend?