Thursday, July 9, 2009

Waking Up With Spaghetti in My Hair

Things I’m good at: writing in cursive on an Etch-a-Sketch, taking standardized tests, saying dumb, funny things into a microphone.

Things I’m bad at: dancing, knowing the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise, doing anything in the kitchen.

I tend to steer my life toward the things I do well, and I try to avoid, at all costs, doing the things that I’m bad at. So how did I end up being in charge of the kitchen at shelter last night? This is what I was asking myself while doing mountains of dishes. I was spraying mashed potatoes and spaghetti and brownie bits off of plates and onto the walls/the sink/my hair, and I was soaking wet, despite wearing big, yellow rubber gloves to my elbows and a floor-length black apron. With 10 minutes left before lights out, there were two bus tubs full of dishes that I hadn’t even started, and most of the leftover food from the evening was still out on the table.

This was par for the course last night. The last few evenings have felt a bit like this, full of constant reminders that I’m the clueless, new kid. Every night there are things that I don’t know how to do or situations I don’t know how to handle. I tell guests no when the answer is yes. I give them things I’m not supposed to. I have to ask a supervisor to clarify what exactly I’m supposed to be doing. Someone has to redo whatever I’ve just done or clean up the mess I’ve made. So last night, after days of feeling incompetent and 30 minutes of swimming in soggy food, I hit the wall; I was done.

At that point, Kristin (aka the boss of me) walked in and realized that I was totally overwhelmed. She offered to let me do whatever would be best for me, but at that moment I had no idea what that was. We talked for a minute, and I opted to skip our nightly meeting and go ahead and finish the dishes because we thought some alone time would do me good. It was a good call.

As I continued washing dishes and trying to process what I was feeling, I was reminded of something God spoke to me years ago, “You don’t do enough of the things that you hate.” It’s an odd concept to be sure. We all do our best to craft lives around the things that we’re good at and the things we enjoy. So why bother with the things I hate? Why choose to do things I don’t do well? What is there to gain? The answer: everything.

Humility. Surrender of control. Transformation. Solidarity with those who don’t get to choose. This is why Jesus calls us to live as servants. There is something about this posture that allows us to give and receive more authentically and that puts us in a position to be changed. I am reminded that this is part of why I go to new places to do things I’ve never done before. I didn’t come here because I would be good at it, quite the opposite.
Living in a world where I only do what I’m good at is a dangerous place. When I know exactly what I'm doing and am totally relying on me and my own competence, I tend to be closed off to learning from God and others. And I know that I still have much to learn…which is why I’m here.

I hope that as I spend my last few nights at shelter, and inherently stumble through new tasks and make a few more mistakes, I can remember that that's okay. As a closet perfectionist/control freak/performance junkie, I hope I can let go a little more...and relax.

I don’t have this thing figured out, but I’m beginning to think that’s good news.


The Smiths said...

So good. I have been thinking this week about how I have to believe that God is found in the ordinary. I loved reading your post and seeing how clearly He spoke to you and encouraged you as you stood over those dishes...the ordinary yuck. I am encouraged that just as God uses us in the things we are good at, so does He use us in things we aren't good at. I've thought about you lots today...thanks for sharing.

Diana Latham said...

Thanks for sharing your life in Seattle. I am enjoying seeing the pics AND reading of your experiences. I was telling my mom this week that, as a mom, my altars of surrender are shaped different than most....the dryer, the kitchen sink, the yard as I plant or weed, sitting on the couch while a child falls asleep. I am not good at most of those things....1 out of 4 (I can put most babies to sleep :) Anyway, loved your moment of spaghetti in your hair. Hillarie's comment reminded me of a poem in my mom's bathroom that I can still quote the beginning to, "Ordinary Day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me not pass you by in sure of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may...."