Change Your Why

I HATE cleaning the bathroom.

Like, Hate-with-a-capital-H.

I’m a writer by day but a momma by night and, with a military husband, many of the household chores usually fall on my shoulders. For the most part, I don’t mind. I don’t mind packing lunches. I don’t mind doing laundry. I don’t even mind tidying the living room every. single. day.

But when Friday rolls around and I know it’s time to clean our bathrooms, I get sour, sometimes even downright pouty (depending on my level of sleep and coffee intake). I grumble under my breath as I scrub the toothpaste globs from the sink, turn up my nose at the splatters on the mirror, and don’t even get me started about the things I think as I scrub the toilet (I live with a ten year-old boy and a husband who might as well BE a ten year-old boy at times, after all). I spend my whole week joyfully (for the most part) serving my family but come Friday, it feels as if clothe myself in a woe-is-me blanket. The weight of all those chores suddenly felt like too much once it came time for the dreaded bathroom scour. The love I felt for my family would go right down the drain with the gallons of bleach I needed to clean up their messes.

We ALL use the bathroom. Why am I the one who has to clean it? Why am I the only one who doesn’t treat the space like a pig sty? I shouldn’t have to scrub this disgusting mess each week when I’m not the one who creates it. I should not have to work for this family; I am NOT a maid.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has days like this. Maybe it’s not cleaning the bathroom, but another particular chore or job that really gets your goat. Or perhaps not a WHAT, exactly, but just a day (or a week, month, year) where you just get overwhelmed meeting the needs of others. Where helping others feels like a burden rather than a blessing. Where your love for people just runs dry.

I’d been living my life in the ebb and flow of this cycle for so long, alternating between servitude and cynicism, when I came across a quote one day that stopped me in my tracks. It said:

“Change your why.”

What a simple, yet powerful thought that has the capacity to transform not just our minds, but our hearts, too. There is a “why” behind every single thing we do, whether we are conscious of it or not. For example, I run every day. Why? Because I want to keep my body strong and healthy (and enjoy all of the delicious Mexican food available in my town with less guilt). I read a lot of books. A. Lot. Of. Books. Why? Partly because it helps me be a better writer and partly because I enjoy the escapism. I wear black stretchy pants more than I care to admit. Why? Because they’re comfortable and I work from home. 😉

These are silly examples, of course, but you get the general idea. There is a motivating force–a “why”–behind everything we do. And it’s easy to pinpoint when it’s something we enjoy doing. But what about the things we do that we hate?

What about those chores or acts of service we really don’t want to do? Like cleaning the bathroom or folding laundry? Or maybe it’s sacrificing Saturday morning–your ONE morning to sleep in–to go an event with your kids or do volunteer work for your church? Maybe it’s staying a few minutes after work to help a co-worker with a problem or agreeing to pet sit for a friend when you really don’t like animals.

Unfortunately, it’s the sad reality of life that–gasp!–it’s not always about what we want. It’s not always about what we enjoy. But what do we do when things come up in life (as they inevitably will) that we have to do but we don’t want to do? That is when it’s all too easy for bitterness or cynicism to creep into our hearts.

And that, my friends, is when we have to change our “why.”

Don’t do it for people. Do it for God.

You see, when we do things for people, it’s easy to get our priorities twisted. When we do things for people, our sinful natures naturally want compensation in some way. Money, gifts, or even just a verbal “thank you” or “job well done.” And, more often than not, when we don’t get some form of acknowledgement, we can become embittered. Imperfect people doing work for other imperfect people leads to disaster. But when we adjust our perspective to imperfect people doing work for a perfect God–that, my friends, is a recipe for miracles.

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, wrote that “our being set apart for Him does not depend on changing our works, but in doing for God’s sake all those things we commonly do for our own. The most excellent method I have found of going to God is that of doing common business without any view of pleasing men, and as far as I am capable, doing it purely for the love of God.”

And he should know. He spent most of his life in a monastery and most of that time in the monastery’s kitchen, scrubbing and cleaning for others. It would have been easy to have gotten discouraged with those around him, as their sloppiness kept him from doing what he most wanted to do in this life–spend time in prayer and reflection of God’s Word. And yet he wasn’t. Rather than viewing this mundane task as a burden, he viewed it as yet another way to serve God. The motivation–or why–behind his task is what made all the difference, not only in his attitude but in his heart.

“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?…We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Let your “why” in all your love be a genuine love for God. Do it for Him, not for others. Do it because He’s given you the opportunity and strength to serve. Do it because He’s given you a home to care for and people to call your own. Do it because He loves you so much that He gave His one and only Son that you should find forgiveness and salvation in His death.

Do it for Him. No matter how mundane. No matter how inconvenient.

Because He is our everything.

Including our “why.”

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