I have a confession to make. For many years, I was one of those hopeless bachelors who sent his laundry to a Laundromat that offered a “wash-and-fold” service. I’ll admit, it was a marvelous luxury, offering me additional time in my week and the added benefit of superbly-folded undershirts.
Since moving to attend graduate school a few months ago, for a number of reasons, I’ve found myself needing to do my own laundry once again. And, while my shirts aren’t folded as nicely and it’s not always easy to find the time to devout to the practice, my world hasn’t come to an end. I’ve even be able to wash, dry and fold multiple loads of laundry without turning my whites pink or shrinking my sweaters to junior size.
And, now, another confession: I’ve actually enjoyed it.
The need to pause on a weekly basis to conduct such ordinary business as folding my own jeans and hanging my shirts forces me to set aside the work that consumes my days. For just an hour or two, I’m able to take some time to do something that doesn’t require me to consider the theology of ministry, the nature of evil or the ontology of anything. For an hour or two, I can stop reading, stop writing, stop thinking and stop worrying.
Doing my own laundry has become a spiritual practice. It has become my own version of an experience of Sabbath.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes in An Altar in the World:
“According to the rabbis, those who observe Sabbath observe all the other commandments. Practicing it over and over again they become accomplished at saying no, which is how they gradually become able to resist the culture’s killing rhythms of drivenness and depletion, compulsion and collapse. Worshipping a different kind of God, they are shaped in that God’s image, stopping every seven days to celebrate their divine creation and liberation. And yet those who practice Sabbath, a little or a lot, know that there is another kind of resistance at work.”
So, on this Saturday night, I’m in the midst of the spiritual practice of doing things myself. The whites and darks are in the dryer. And, as I await their eventual dryness, I’m listening to Pandora, sipping hot apple cider and writing this note to you. Next to me on the floor are hundreds of pages of assigned reading, an outline of a paper that needs to be written and paperwork that needs to be filled out. All of that will be waiting for me when I am done putting my shirts away, and I’ll be able to do the work with a bit more energy and perhaps even a bit of serenity.
Sometimes, doing things yourself can be a profound spiritual practice.