My late wife Lisa was a fabulous cook. She had several extraordinary creations that became famous around the ministries where we served – (in Sam Elliott’s voice) turkey chili, chicken n’ biscuits, tortilla soup, and even a great Louisiana gumbo with a roux. We were indeed not vegetarians back then!
From time to time, she’d cook for the entire church. She had a team of friends that helped her with such events. I served all day every Wednesday in the youth ministry and as youth Sunday School director. I also had a big group of great people working alongside me week in and week out.
Lisa and I had a deal – she would cook, and we (meaning a group of guys and me) would clean up afterward. Then Lisa and her girlfriends would go out for dinner together in a restaurant. Sometimes she’d have to work six or seven hours the day of the event, and she’d need to prep days prior. If you’ve ever cooked for a platoon of folks, you know how it is. Therefore the ladies cooked, the guys cleaned, and the ladies got rewarded if the guys were smart.
Great food is never cheap on ingredients or love.
Additionally, as a gratitude gift to my wife for always preparing beautiful meals at home, I told her she never had to wash dishes again. I took responsibility for cleaning the kitchen for about a decade of our marriage.
As an adolescent, my primary chore in the house was to clean the kitchen. There was no use in asking to do anything unless my mother’s domain was spotless! She also had to inspect my work personally. Her most strenuous test was the “counter swipe.” She would run her hand gently along the counter’s surface, searching for the slightest speck of grime. If she found one spec of food, I had to wipe everything down all over again! Also, she wouldn’t come back and inspect for another fifteen minutes! So no need for half-ass work! Best to run my OWN hand carefully along the counter before ever calling her to say “I’m finished cleaning” the first time. Parents of teenagers, you know you gotta be specific!
I’m still pretty militant about cleaning today. Ask anyone who’s ever cleaned a kitchen with me – it’s absolutely as spotless as can be when I’m (we’re) done. No problem washing or drying and providing superior work. Thanks, mom – it worked – scarred for life!
Once Lisa agreed to cook for a leadership function where about three hundred people would attend. As usual, I scheduled a group of guys to help me clean up afterward. The banquet went off without a hitch, and the girls departed before the ceremony closed for their night out together.
I had been with Lisa for most of the day, helping her prepare, so I knew it would be a late night for me. But when the time came to clean up, all my help bailed—some with very legit excuses and some without. Nonetheless, I found myself tired with dishes and cookware to wash for three hundred.
I thought about calling some help, but who wants to leave their house to do dishes at 8:30 pm? Nobody. So I put my head down and got to it…but mad. Really, really angry.
My anger jumped from one subject to another, as anger often does. It needs to blame and feel sorry for itself to distract from substantive issues. I fumed, and I washed. I lamented, and I scrubbed. Suddenly, I realized my mind was connecting people not showing up to help me wash dishes with something that happened at another church years before! Holy shit!
At that moment, I got a chill, and Jesus said to me, “Who are you doing this for? Because it looks like you’re doing it selfishly. Those are my pots, pans, and plates – you should be jumping at the chance to serve me by making them perfectly spotless.”
Definitely not present.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive…”
Maharaj-ji says, “The eyes of a saint are always concentrated on the supreme self. The minute he is aware of himself, sainthood is lost.”
God’s not looking at the cleanliness of the plate as much as the intention that washed it.
It’s really with everything, isn’t it? I’m either doing it for God or for my ego. It seems pretty black and white. Washing dishes or multi-million dollar business deals – there’s been an intention behind every moment. Jesus said, “Nobody serves two masters,” and He’s correct. I do it for the Divine, or I serve John’s ego creating more karma, more lives, and more time in suffering school!
It took about four or five hours to finish all those dishes. During that time, the Divine showed me some folks I needed to forgive and the high importance of the intention behind my every thought, word, and action.
That was about twenty-five years ago.
I’m still joyfully, presently, washing dishes for Jesus today. Ram Dass would say, “Before enlightenment, we wash dishes. After enlightenment, we wash dishes.” Nobody escapes chores in this plane of reality, so why not enjoy it?
Unrelated to this story, while helping to prepare lunch recently, my assistant Darin asked me with a smile, “How many lettuce leaves do I have to rinse to get enlightened?” I replied, “It’s in the trillions.”
The real issue is that none of us know which leaf we are on! It could be the next plate we wash, diaper we change, or trash bag we carry out WITH JOY that takes us over the edge from selfishness to selflessness. We all evolve saints. In this lifetime or a thousand more, we all eventually become what we came from – Divinity.
That includes you, superstar.
Blessings for your journey!