Holy Drudgery

“Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way—once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real…”

-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

When I’m anxious, I make my way to the laundry area before I even realize it. I watch myself mechanically open the dryer and reach for warm clothes to fold and sort, restoring a bit of order in this small way. I used to think about the futility of the never ending cycles of daily life: loading and unloading the dishwasher; getting clothes dirty, washing them, and getting them dirty again. Drudgery.

So many things are in upheaval; mundane tasks have become a comfort. Maybe, right now, these are the places where I am most present to the Holy. 

Everything changes, and yet the laundry must still be done. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but I do know how to plunge my hands into warm soapy water to wash dishes. I can’t sleep, but I can wash my face and brush my teeth, taking care with bedtime rituals that signal to my body that it’s time to wind down. I don’t always know who I am, but I do know that the bodies in this house need to be washed and fed.

Life is hard and hectic and joyful and painful, and so many people we care about are suffering in unimaginable ways. When I get lost trying to make sense of it all, despairing that I can’t do more to help, sometimes the best answer God gives me is a load of clean dishes to put away and a stack of mail to sort. I can give myself fully to the small task before me.

My body does the chores it knows so well and thanks me for giving it something useful and simple to do. My mind can rest a moment or race on if it needs to as I give compassionate attention to my mental state. My heart can let go of the heavy burdens of “out there” for just this moment as it overflows with gratitude for the people whose clothing I’m folding. My soul can remember that deep under the tumultuous surface, an unchanging peace remains.

At any moment, the Holy One may whisper a next step to take, but for now, I am right where I need to be. Today, God meets me here at the kitchen sink. This, too, is holy ground.

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