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  • Josephine Hirschfeld

6 • DOING DISHES


When I think of one of the most hated, yet universal jobs that every family is faced with, doing the dishes is at the top of the list. Laundry, scrubbing toilets, and nighttime feeding are also chores that tend to plague most households as well, but there is something about washing dishes that has made the task one of the least desirable. We’ve all visited (or grew up in) homes that avoided this work – clearly indicated by the large stack of plates in the kitchen sink. I’ve even gone to great lengths to avoid washing dishes myself, although my strategy was to purchase bulk packages of disposables and to eat out often.


Why is it that washing the dishes is so loathed? Most households in the west have the modern conveniences of non-stick pans, silicone cooking utensils, and large automatic dishwashers, so the problem is not that this chore is especially time consuming or burdensome. My personal theory is women have a particular distaste for cleaning up the kitchen because it feels too much like servitude. Feminists will take it a step further and call it slavery outright. After slaving away over a hot stove (or slaving away over the frozen nuggets that you popped into the microwave), nobody has the desire to then get up and reset the kitchen so it can be done all over again in a few hours. Especially if it means that everyone else is effectively off the hook and can leave the table satisfied to do whatever they want (Proverbs 15:17).


I am here to tell you today that doing the dishes not only can be redeemed, it can become one of the most important and effective ways you serve your household. This is true regardless of your marital status, dishwasher status, or help status. “Blasphemy!” screams the feminist. Don’t listen to her. Your heart is at stake (Psalm 14:1, Matthew 6:21).


Dishes were once considered to be one of the worst parts of my life. I bought cheap paper plates that we threw away after each meal, and I only washed a dish here and there if I absolutely couldn’t cook new food without it. Every once in a while I would gather up my strength and tackle the (now moldy) pile of dishes. Sometimes my husband would get so disgusted by the mess that he would do it himself, which just made me feel bad. Why? Because I knew I was neglecting the home that he was providing for me, even if he never mentioned it (which he didn’t).


Now doing the dishes is a blessing to me. It is a joyful task that I take complete responsibility for. It is something I do daily with pleasure, even if someone sets a dirty glass in the sink after I’ve just finished for the night. Doing the dishes has become a sort of spiritual discipline all on its own. How in the world did this happen? In a single word: scripture.


Reading God’s word has convicted my heart in countless ways (Hebrews 4:12), but one that has been most notable and noticeable is my care for the kitchen. Spending time meditating on, mulling over, and discussing the Bible has totally changed my life in how I view the dishes. I would read passages like Titus 2:3-5 and think about the impact that my faithfulness in the little things would have on my ability to be a good Gospel witness. I felt deeply convicted that if I didn’t practice selflessness and self control now, how would I teach that to my daughters, and how would I be able to model that for younger women in the church? It certainly wasn’t loving to my husband or children that my attitude towards cleaning up after meals was neglectful at best. I knew what my job entailed as a wife, and no amount of excuses, avoidance, or blame would change that.


It was time to get serious about my sin (Romans 6:12). Through God working unceasingly in my heart (Philippians 1:6) I put away the paper plates, purchased four place settings, and forced myself to spend time at the kitchen sink – otherwise nobody in the household would be able to eat. The less dishes you own, the harder you make life for yourself if you don’t stay on top of them. The longer you let dishes sit in the sink, the more difficult it will be to wash off the dried-on layers later. These principles helped me to follow through in an area that required all of the virtues that older women are called to teach to younger women in Titus.


Through the power of Christ, I was able to turn this once hated chore into a delight. This was one way that I could tangibly lay down my personal desires and love my family. I didn’t play the game of negotiating with my husband (“if I cook dinner, you clean it up”). I simply asked God for the joy that I was lacking, for the strength that I was lacking, for the wisdom that I was lacking. He is faithful to provide for all of our needs, and I am a walking example of that reality (Psalm 68:10, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Timothy 6:17).


Don’t wait until you feel motivated. “The Lord wants a joyful heart. Therefore since my attitude is not right, I will delay obedience.” Don’t blame the circumstances for your neglect. “If only I had an open concept kitchen, I wouldn’t feel as though my work was sequestered and isolating.” We as wives have a really good knack for finding reasons to not take our role seriously. My main gripe was that I didn’t have a dishwasher. “My work is so much greater than most, therefore it is understandable that I can’t stay on top of it.” The reality was that I could manage the load. I just didn’t want to (Romans 7:5).


Feminists will look at the mess in the kitchen and assume that it is there because the wife is rightly too busy following her dreams. Egalitarians will see the same pile of dishes and declare that the husband isn’t doing his fair share. Complementarians view the scene and are tempted to blame the father for not being a servant leader. But the woman who seeks to honor Christ will stop staring at the disorder, strap her rubber gloves on, and joyfully plunge her hands elbow deep into soapy water.


I still don’t have a dishwasher, and I probably won’t for at least several more years. I have kids and a husband who live in our home, which means that washing dishes will never be something that I can be done with for good. It is repetitive, it is inconvenient, and it is boring, just as many of our duties as wives and moms are. But I have chosen to do it anyways with a glad heart out of obedience to God and love for my people. This small act of selflessness, this tiny bit of virtue has the power to transform your life, your family, and your home. So stop procrastinating. Get up right now and go clean the kitchen.

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