The washing machine started in the normal way: filled up with water, moved the clothes back and forth, stopped for the soak cycle. But when it came time to spin, it clicked into place and stopped. There was no revving of the electrical motor, no blurry whir of spinning clothes. And the water wouldn’t drain. Even now, thinking back, I can feel the tension in my stomach. The anger. I don’t have time to deal with this. Not now.
Of course, it’s not just now. I wouldn’t have time to deal with it tomorrow, either. Or the next day. Or the next. But I had to.
The machine simply wouldn’t continue. Couldn’t continue. So – frustrated though I was – I packed up the car with more than a week’s worth of dirty clothes and drove to the laundromat.
Sitting there, waiting, I thought of Brother Lawrence’s claim that “all our actions . . . [should] be little acts of communion with God.” And I realized that the practice of mysticism – an awareness of God’s reality and presence in all places, times, and situations – is easier to do when I feel like it, when I’m at peace and at rest, when I have room for the silence.
But do I ever have room? To stop? To wait? To listen? To experience?
I named that night’s realization. Called it The Lesson of the Broken Machine. Because if I don’t have time to deal with a pile of dirty clothes, a swamped utility room, and a washer that won’t spin; then I don’t have time for God. Or me. Or the people I love. But that’s OK. Because it seems that Brother Lawrence didn’t really have that time, either. He worked so that others might have that time. The difference between Brother Lawrence and me is that he invited God to be part of his work – washing pots, preparing a meal, picking up the pieces of a broken stack of dropped dishes. May God teach me to do the same. Even in a laundromat.
the practice of mysticism – an awareness of God’s reality and presence in all places, times, and situations – is easier to do when I feel like it