Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God in the dish room

During the Summer, I work at the Walker Center, a Bed and Breakfast in Auburndale, MA.  For those planning a trip to Boston, their website is walkerctr.org.  I also reside on campus in one of the student housing buildings.  This arrangement suits me well as I don't have a commute; waking at 5:45 for a 6am shift gives me time to dress, brush my teeth, beat my hair into a presentable fashion (or put on a hat), and walk, roll, or stumble across the lawn.

The Walker Center puts breakfast on seven days a week from 7:30 to 9am.  This also suits me quite fine as I am able to have a hearty breakfast each day before jumping into the tasks which await me.  In addition to the B&B guests having breakfast, the Walker Center frequently serves as host for retreat groups.  These retreat groups often have meals of lunch and supper, and groups range in size from smaller, like the group of fifteen we have arriving in a few days, to larger, like the group of sixty we had over the weekend.  As one can probably imagine when sixty people eat a meal, there are plenty of dishes to be cleaned afterward; and with each meal comes the dirty dishes which were used in food preparation.  When three meals are served for sixty, it seems an endless cycles of dishes; one no sooner completes the washing of dishes from breakfast and the dishes from lunch begin arriving.  I often joke that it's Groundhog Day (to reference the great movie starring Bill Murray) or that there is a lapse in the space-time continuum.  This is all to say that I have spent the majority of my time the last week working in the dish room. More specifically, my time has been spent with these nifty tools, the sprayer and the sanitizer.
Spending time in the dish room has afforded me time to think.  

 Dishes are rinsed with the pressure-sprayer, scrubbed, and placed on blue racks and sent through the santizer.  The sanitizer whirs with chemicals, hot water, and pressure to make sure that the dishes are super clean.
You'll notice in this image that there is a small ring on the spray handle which latches onto a hook as a means of securing the sprayer.  When I first started in the dish room, I struggled to hit the hook with the ring each time I wanted to secure the sprayer.  The hook swivels slightly, the ring wobbles around, and things are covered in soap; all are components for a less than swift execution.  For a while I would merely let the sprayer dangle before me, but this soon became annoying.

 I've now been a regular in the dish room for over a month.  And I noticed yesterday, amid the soap and water and chunks of food, that I was successfully securing that ring on that hook nine out of ten times that I made the attempt.  My experience in the dish room is not unlike that of a newborn calf, wobbly on its feet at first, but soon walking and running around.  I now know how to wash the dishes correctly from start to finish, I now know where the many and varied types of items belong. 

I believe that my experiences with the sprayer are similar to my experiences with God. 
At times in my life when I have been troubled or have had significant decisions to make, my college chaplain and now adopted mother would say, "Where do you hear God?  Where is God in all this?"  In the earliest parts of my developing faith, I didn't know what the heck she was talking about, or how I should answer.  I found myself thinking, "Vic, God can't talk!  I can't listen to what isn't there!"  Her questions perplexed me. 

Now, some years later, I have a slightly different understanding.  I've come to understand more about the movement of the Spirit, I've come to understand some of the varied ways in which God beckons us and calls us to a particular place and time, I've come to recognize that listening is the key. Still, I don't always know 100 percent that I'm making the "right" decision, sometimes our paths aren't quite that definitively clear.  Sometimes I still struggle with the aspect of hearing God, of discerning God's voice from the chaos of the world and the influences of others in the discerning process.

I have come to a place now, in my life, where I ask myself the questions originally posed to me by Vicki those years ago.  I ask them of myself when I am struggling with sermon writing and need a focused direction.  I ask them of myself when I can't sleep at night and something may be on my mind.  I ask them when faced with significant decisions.  Sometimes all I can muster as a response to the questions is, "I don't know where God is calling me, but I know God is with me, no matter what I decide to do."  I have become not only more familiar and comfortable with the questions, I have become more comfortable with the process of listening, reflecting, and following.  Admittedly, I still have an innate desire to forge ahead and make decisions at a rapid-fire pace, but I am working to curb that in favor of a more Spirit-filled decision-making process. 

After my first days in the dish room, I could have surrendered in frustration at the skills I seemingly lacked.  Instead, I continued to spray, scrub, and sanitize.  I dropped plates, knocked pitchers over, and nearly lost a spoon to the garbage disposal.  Instead of claiming defeat, I stuck it out and did my best, and I did improve.  And that's how I recognized God in the dish room.