I ground my teeth and rolled my eyes as I walked into the kitchen after another long day. It was the same old irritation that wells up in me repeatedly when I come face to face with our marriage long argument; dirty dishes.
Household chores are a fact of life; laundry needs to be folded, bathrooms scrubbed, garbage disposed of, and meals must be prepared and cleaned up after. People seem to have varying levels of dislike when it comes to cleaning. It can range from a mild inconvenience to deep hatred, and my husband tends to be the latter. Since coming home from our honeymoon, doing the dishes has been an issue. He comes from a family who did dishes once a day at the most, sometimes letting them pile up for days on end. On the other hand, I was taught that everything, including the floor, must be spotless after every meal, no matter how small. Our premarital counseling was thorough, but there wasn't a section on combining cleaning tactics.
After our first few married months of bickering, our Christmas present to ourselves was a dishwasher. We continue to joke to others that it "saved" our marriage.
Over the years, that excellent machine did its job, but it wasn't a complete solution. We usually take turns with household chores and work together to get things done, but somehow, the dishes are almost always waiting for me by the end of the day. When this is the case, I give an exaggerated sigh and gallantly plow through the smelly dishes while mentally berating my husband. I grumble and think of all the times he has neglected the chore, and I promptly come up with many great examples. I clean as quickly as I can, to flaunt how simple it can be and stand satisfied with my martyred task. I then sit in the living room, waiting for Adrian to come downstairs and excessively fawn over my gracious act of service, admitting to his neglect.
As I wait, a part of me wants him to defend himself so that I can throw all my pent up frustration in his face. However, this man of mine finally takes a peek at the kitchen, smiles at me, and says a sincere and heartfelt thank-you. He then sets out to do any other task left unfished, followed by offering a foot massage—no fawning or groveling, just sincere gratitude and humility.
Gulp. Instantly my pride is crushed deep in my spirit, and I feel the weight of my resentful thoughts. I may have done the job needed doing, but amongst the dirty dishes was something just as unpleasant, a selfish heart.
My incredible husband serves our family passionately, and graciously. He cooks all our meals, works hard to provide, gives 100% to parenting our kids, treasures me as Christ does the church, and loves Jesus immensely. I am incredibly blessed to call him mine.
Adrian does not intend to leave the kitchen clean up to me. It is not a malicious or manipulative tactic to weasel out of his least favorite chore. He just isn't made like me! We are different, and we are not perfect. He tends to compartmentalize and take each task individually, where I see things as all connected. I organize and strive for structure; Adrian is flexible and relaxed. Together we make a great team in so many ways, but yes, sometimes our natural tendencies do clash, and things slip between the cracks.
God reminded me that night of 1 Samuel 16:7, "For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." While I was "nobly" completing our least favorite task, my tired husband took the time to give extra songs and cuddles to our kids, after putting them to bed. We both were doing something for the family's sake, but our hearts were in very different places.
A wise, dear friend of mine recently told me: "There is a big difference between serving and being a servant, and God calls for a servant's heart."
Marriage is not a 50/50 split mentality. It is the commitment to giving 100% every day, no matter what your spouse is offering in return. If we want to see changes in the everyday irritations that come up as husband and wife, we must first be willing to check our own hearts, asking, am I serving, or am I a servant?.
God's grace and love have no limits and know no bounds, and if we continue to saturate ourselves in His Word and practice His presence, our hearts will change and mold to be one like Jesus'. A pure heart of a servant, not self-seeking, and content in the knowledge that everything we do, we do for the Lord.
The dishes still come up as an occasional frustration, but I learned something significant that night. I can't say I like walking into an unclean kitchen, but now instead of allowing resentment to creep in, I pray God will help me care a lot more about the condition of my heart towards my husband than the state of my dirty dishes.
Author - Erin
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.