A couple Fridays ago, I wiped down a very small portion of the bathroom. And I felt rather proud that on this, my designated Bathroom Cleaning Day, I was, in fact, cleaning the bathroom. I decided to own that pride, to boast in the Lord, so to speak. I was grateful to him that I was being faithful to getting something done. All my strength and goodness is, after all, in Him.
And then I remembered guilt.
I experience much guilt over something I have never before put in print, or even perhaps said out loud. So here it is:
You guys, I often, actually, nearly always, have dirty dishes in the kitchen. And I go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, often including pots and pans from the day, or two, or three, before.
It’s shameful enough that I had to “whisper” it in gray.
On that Friday a couple of weeks back, I asked myself why I give myself so much grief over this fact. It seriously stresses me out, and I am loath to admit this state of affairs in public. It seems downright slovenly to me.
But actually, it is not that gross. I always keep the dishes clean enough to maintain sanitation, and when I need room on the counters to cook, I wash dishes. So, when I look impartially at our life, kitchen matters are actually going well. The fact that I don’t wash dishes every day has not proven to be a problem.
So, again, why have I found my lack of dish-washing prowess so mentally distressing over the last several years? To find the answer, I had to trace the thought pattern back to its beginning. I finally realized that several years ago, as a very young homemaker, I had a couple of conversations with friends. That’s perfectly normal. They were both very busy, and also rather new to homemaking. (This is two separate conversations, by the way). Both shared about some stresses they were experiencing at home. This is also very normal. They both said a few conversational things on the topic, and then also happened to say something to the effect of, “I just can’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. It’s a real problem for me.” Also, very normal. It’s good to share with friends about what’s going on in our lives, the good, the bad, and the dirty. And the cleaning.
But my thoughts took several wrong turns as I digested these conversations. The progression (actually, regression) went something like this:
“Oh, shoot, you mean going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink is a problem? It’s bad?”
“I go to bed with dirty dishes all the time.”
“I am a bad person.
“All the time.”
I think you all see right away what took me roughly 4 years to figure out. It’s I that was wrong. My mind jumped way too easily to self-reflection and self-condemnation. In fact, what was going on in both conversations was a friend sharing of themselves with me. Each of them, at that time, felt more restful if they did dishes before turning in for the night. They took a risk in telling me something of the strains they experience when the dishes are dirty. And, now that I replay the conversations in my mind, I am pretty sure that they also were somewhat wishful that they could just let the dishes go for a day and head straight to bed. Instead of empathizing with them and offering support, I went down a path that led to personal guilt.
Going through this little exercise of re-playing my 4 year long mental conversation, back to the first lie that started it all, did a lot to free me of the guilt of not washing dishes every evening. I also said a quick prayer for the Lord to help free me up. It’s been wonderful! Probably more dishes have been promptly washed than they ever were before this revelation, but that’s not the point. My point is that the truth set me free. I am not a bad person if I go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. I am free to get some rest without guilt. As a side benefit, freedom saves us a lot of time and energy, and when we are free from self-condemnation we really get so much more done.