God And The Dishes

Sometimes I think God sits beside me on the counter as I wash dishes.

It’s annoying, really.

Most house-related chores are boring, of course — that’s why they’re chores — but washing dishes is the worst of them.

Necessary, but not evil — it can’t be conquered, it isn’t peaceful, it doesn’t feel like success, just a never-ending stream of stained porcelain and scratched iron, soppy scraped particles floating in dirty water. Skin wet and wrinkled slimy with soap and grease and residue of whatever food you’ve eaten in the past week.

I once met a woman who said she liked washing dishes. Perhaps she lied out of kindness. It’s an impossible claim. If you don’t think washing dishes is the dullest of the already dull, the center choice on a spectrum of beige-colored paint chips, I’ll place a bet that in your house, someone else does it.

So why would God choose then?

I can think of so many better times to show up — even an hour earlier, when the tortillas were warm and soft, eggs steaming and cheese melting, company laughing at poor jokes at my table. Or tomorrow morning, when the sun rises; mornings are always terrible with a little wonder thrown in, a good time to visit; or next week, maybe Thursday, when I’m frustrated, wound up like a spring with no energy to cook, when I could use the company.

If he talked, I couldn’t hear him, anyway, over the sound of the running water.

It makes me wonder, in a blistered sort of way, what kind of person you have to be — what kind of message you have to want to send, to show up not in the exciting or difficult, comedy or tragedy, but in the moments I’m likely to forget because they simply matter least.

Maybe it’s because I can’t be distracted then — my hands are wet, the drain is loud, I can’t listen to music or check my phone. My sink faces a wall; I can’t look out the window. Perhaps it’s the closest thing I have to meditation, chipping burnt cheese off trays and collecting lukewarm coffee molecules under my fingernails. Everywhere else is prone to interruption, but here, at my sink, fingers wrinkling in cloudy water —

That can’t be the whole of it, though. A God smaller than distraction can hardly claim the name.

Maybe it’s because the religion I’m a part of is layered with so much drama, politics, catchphrases that are utter nonsense if you’re outside the circle, questions no one else has any interest in asking — and being on the line only means you distrust both sides — maybe he knows I won’t listen if he talks, anyway. How would you respond if God sat down on the chair next to you?

Look, I don’t mean to be crude about this, but we are a conceal-and-carry state, and historically speaking, we have already executed God once. We don’t have the best track record.

Or maybe he’s just filling the gaps between things. Maybe he thinks I’ll need the company more then, in the most banal moments of the daily grind, than in the hard weeks or the hard days or the days when I already have company. Maybe it’s just a reminder. Maybe it’s just foreshadowing — that odd plane scene that explains why John McClane is barefoot for the whole film. Maybe it’s just showing up, being present and accounted for, at the times when no one is ever going to bother taking attendance. In him we live and move and have our being.

If anyone wants to challenge my claim that washing dishes is a tin of flour in the spice cupboard, you’re welcome to test it in my kitchen.

You may have company.

1 Response

  1. Roberta, I shall test this God theory very soon as I wash dishes! I once heard someone say she loved to iron because she prayed as she did it. I never thought to apply that to dishwashing but I think now I should. I have to finish listening to Moby Dick on Podcast first though. Chapter 94!!

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