I’ve been washing dishes by hand for several weeks now. Our dishwasher broke a few months ago, and it’s not repairable. We need a new one but have put off the purchase until we can find a great bargain and save up enough cash to buy one.
I don’t mind terribly dish washing by hand (don’t get me wrong,though; I’d love to have a working dishwasher again!) because I recognize there’s a real benefit in doing manual labor with your hands.
What is it about working with our hands that can be revelatory, inspirational, insightful, and, ultimately, healing?
I think there must be some connection with the act of creation. Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” When we put our hands to work we are always creating something new—even if we’re cleaning dishes or folding laundry or mowing the grass. The work of our hands moves “the needle” from point A to point B; we participate in the advancing of life. We are “co-creators,” in a sense.
This work of our hands is important, too. I can’t tell you for sure what cleaning the same glass over and over day in and day out actually does, but the Psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 90:17 asks that God would “establish the work of our hands.” In other words, his prayer is that God would use what we produce with our hands to become a foundation upon which something greater is built.
I have Psalm 90:17 written on an index card and taped to my kitchen cupboard door. You can tell it’s been hanging there now for a few years. The edges of the card are bent; and if you look closely, you’ll see some spatters of food or drink around the “of” and the “our.” I keep it RIGHT THERE because it’s at my eye level when I’m scraping plates, scrubbing silverware, and getting off baked on messes. I need to be reminded that my work matters, as God is “establishing” it—setting it in stone.
I also realize that my work—all of it—is not in vain. It sure feels trivial most days. But it’s not. It’s not exactly temporary, either. Yes, I know our earthly lives here are temporary and we await our sure and eternal home. But Scripture tells us that the work of our hands matters. It endures. It is “established.”
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