The Dishwasher Blues

“Oh, I remember those days. Now that I live in a house, I absolutely hate my life whenever I’m anywhere that doesn’t have a built-in washer and dryer. Or a dishwasher, for that matter. You do have a dishwasher, don’t you?”

I put on my best fake smile and shook my head. “Nope. You’re looking at the dishwasher.”

The woman from church started to giggle. “Oh, you’re just too funny! You—the dishwasher—ha!” She stopped laughing abruptly, her face becoming much too serious for the topic of conversation. “I am sorry about that, though. I hope you do get those necessities soon—life is just a drag without them!”

I waved goodbye and then grabbed Michael’s hand, signaling that I was ready to head home. He told me that he needed to help our pastor with something but that he’d be ready in five minutes. I sat down in the hallway on a bench and began to let my frustrations fester. There had been a theme running through my life lately. Just last week at the coffee shop where I work, a woman who discovered that I was a newlywed tried to console me about the low state of life that Michael and I are apparently living. When she had thrown two quarters into the tip jar, I had laughingly but honestly thanked her for the laundry money. Big mistake.

“Oh honey, you don’t have to do your laundry at a Laundromat, do you?”

“Just in the basement below our apartment complex.” Then, with a note of pride in my voice, I added, “We’re the apartment closest to the washer and dryer.” I expected to hear her praise our good fortune.

Instead, she frowned. “Everyone has to go through it, I suppose. It’s just awful, isn’t it?” She sighed dramatically. “Especially when you’re married to a man, doing his dirty laundry. You’ll get through it, honey. We all do.”

I smiled awkwardly, not knowing how to respond.

Living in a suburb in which every third woman who walks into our store has a diamond bigger than a dime on her left hand is overwhelming. Michael and I may not be rich by suburban Chicago standards, but we’re living—as far as we’re concerned—rather well: our own one-bedroom apartment, a running car, the ability to pay our bills on time … why shouldn’t we be happy?

Michael was done helping our pastor, so we left church for our apartment. An email from one of my closest friends was in my in-box. Like me, Kayla had also gotten married this summer, and she and her husband will be starting dental and medical school soon, respectively. They are brilliant, kind, beautiful people with amazing hearts. As I read the email, the first paragraph described their new digs. Two bedrooms, a walk-in closet, a porch on the back, and (I quote) “a washer and dryer that run without quarters!” I wanted to puke. Or have a pity party. I did not want to think about the fact that they are living in Gretna, Nebraska where the cost of living is very different from Chicago, Illinois. I did not want to think about the fact that they will be paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans years after their grueling school years are over. I was just upset about the fact that a couple that got married an entire three weeks after us was living at a higher standard than we were! At least the woman at church was older than me. The woman at the café was obviously richer than me. But my college roommate and good friend, a woman of the same age and status, she has her own washer and dryer! The email didn’t mention it, but I bet that they have their own dishwasher, too!

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I suddenly became extremely disgusted with the thought of having any dirty dishes in the sink, so I stomped over to the kitchen to scrub away the crustiness that I was sure a dishwasher would have conquered much more easily. Michael came up behind me and gave me a kiss on the head, thanking me for doing the dishes. I grunted in reply. As he headed to our bedroom, he turned on the radio, which defaulted to the nearby Christian station.

And you’re all I want, you’re all I need / You’re everything! Everything! An enthusiastic voice cried out to the Lord over the radio waves as I turned the water on so hot that I nearly burned my hands. The chorus repeated over and over. I paused to look at the earthenware dishes that I had in my soapy hands. They were in tones of blues and browns, smooth and somehow matched perfectly with the rest of our tiny apartment, arrayed in an odd assortment of wall hangings, post-college couches covered in blankets and old dressers. I was thankful for these dishes that seemed to pile up in awkward towers in the sink, thankful for each person and family who had spent their own money buying sets of these dishes for our wedding so that we had something to eat off of every night. … you’re all I need! You’re everything! Everything!

Suddenly, I was reminded of Christ’s words, recorded by his beloved disciple in the book of John: “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” Looking around, my eyes absorbed the shapes and colors of our tiny kitchen filled with dishes and food, our small living room filled with furniture and books, even with a computer. All of the sudden I was so humbled by the abundance that God had given to me that I felt hot tears stinging the back of my eyes. God has blessed me and my husband more than we could ever ask for: a roof over our heads, enough food for each day, secure jobs, and love—love from Him and from one another. When it comes down to it, we lack nothing. Even if we don’t have our own washer and dryer.

The world and the devil would have me defeated over something as silly and yet seemingly important as a dishwasher or a dryer. He would have me feel like a second-class citizen, robbed of my “rights” to optimum ease and comfort so prized in the first-world. The devil would have me discouraged, beaten down, destroyed. He would use something as ridiculous as having to put four quarters in a washing machine to make me angry and secretly resentful at God. He will use anything to try and twist our affections from God and take our focus off of him. He will and he does, every day, whispering to us through music and advertisements and other people that we don’t have all that we need, that we should still be hungry for something else even though we have the bread of life to continuously feast on.

At this point in my life, I don’t think it’s wrong to own a washer and dryer set, even a dishwasher. Honestly, I would love to have those things in order to save time and energy. But God has given me two hands, a scrubber and some liquid soap. He’s also provided a pile of quarters on the bedroom dresser, right next to the laundry hamper. That’s more than enough for now, no matter what the devil says.

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