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.