I do not enjoy housework. Not even a little bit. Just yesterday I was telling the young lady who lives next door to me that I wished I had a magic wand that I could simply wave and have a clean house! Alas, that is not the case and I do have to put things away and do the dishes and the laundry and clean the bathrooms and mop the floor and the list goes on and on in a seemingly never-ending cycle. This, despite the fact that my standards for cleanliness are not all that high. It’s really been bugging me lately. There are so many other things that I would much rather be doing with that time.
In the midst of my aggravation, what message did God send me regarding this? An email reminding me that housework is an opportunity to encounter God.
And, so it is. Every moment of our lives, if offered to God and done to serve Him, is holy. That includes the time spent with the laundry or scrubbing the floor. First of all, we do these things because they are part of our vocation and one of our primary duties on this earth is to serve God by living our vocation to the best of our abilities. Secondly, we do our housework to serve those we love – so that they may have clean dishes and clean clothes and a healthy environment to live in. It may not seem that way as we are struggling to get it done, but doing the housework is actually an act of love.
The time spent on household chores can also offer a time to pray. These menial tasks usually do not require a great deal of brain power to accomplish. There are two ways to make them more meaningful. The first is to truly pay attention to them. Get off the auto-pilot and actually focus on the task at hand. Instead of simply rushing to get through them, live in the moment. Be thankful for the people you are doing these tasks for. Appreciate the fact that you have the physical ability to complete these chores.
Second, the time can be used to say some memorized prayer or to simply talk to God. I would be willing to venture that when you are performing your household tasks your mind is usually elsewhere anyway – perhaps replaying conversations, turning over worries, or making future plans. Why not turn one’s mind toward God? Prayer and work can go hand in hand. While there are certainly times when we need to focus on one or the other more exclusively, manual labor and mental prayer are able to co-exist quite nicely.
I needed the gentle reminder that God gave me that my housework has value that goes beyond the short-term results. The dishes I washed today will once again be dirty tomorrow. The dog will shed again and somebody will definitely spill something on the floor that I mopped. The clean clothes will on again be dirty. But, if I do these tasks with a loving, prayerful heart rather than a grudging, complaining one, they will acquire a much deeper purpose. Perhaps, someday, I will even come to look forward to them!
- Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur