The steady syncopation of our dishwasher has hardly stopped its rinsing and draining since the beginning of the quarantine. Spending our days pouring second cups of coffee and cooking more meals than usual has resulted in hazard pay for our little dishwasher that could. Among the many items that make the usual cleansing rotation—cramped, as they are, between the plastic prongs of the washer's shelves—leftover-stained Tupperware containers are by far the most common.
Eating leftovers signals an ability to rest in what is already done, rather than rushing to the next achievement, the next meal, or the next goal. That ability to rest is especially important in our current moment, when psychologists have noted a pattern of overexertion by many living in quarantine—an overexertion attended by what some are calling "quarantine bragging." In a time in which so many things are uncertain, many attempt to seize control by turning to what York University psychology professor, Gordon Flett, has labeled "perfectionistic self-presentation."
Indeed, many of us might currently feel tempted to present a version of our daily lives that does not match our emotional state. That form of self-presentation, however, can be a dangerous mechanism for convincing ourselves that we do not need help or support. But we all need help sometimes. In Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary, she views eating leftovers as a symbol of our dependence upon the Lord for provision:
"[E]ating itself reminds us that none of us can stay alive on our own. If you are breathing, it's because someone fed you . . . In this way the act of eating reorients us from an atomistic, independent existence toward one that is interdependent. But the Eucharist goes even further. In it, we feast on Christ, and are thereby mysteriously formed together into one body, the body of Christ."
The simple act of unscrewing a Tupperware container should inspire in us a response of gratitude, "receiv[ing] the nourishment available in this day as a gift." And inasmuch as eating leftovers is a tacit recognition of an already completed action, it helps us to "resist the idolatry of work and accomplishment," unified by the work of Christ instead.
After all, the grace of the Gospel—by far the greatest gift we have received or will ever receive—is likewise the product of a past work, completed because and in spite of our own inability to desire the transformation it performs in us. On the Cross, Jesus freed us from our requirement of perfection, so that we can now rest in his perfection and his glory. When we eat anything, we should call to mind our utter dependence upon the physical and spiritual nourishment that only God can provide; and when we eat leftovers, we should do so with a grateful heart for the abundance of that provision, resting in an overflow of grace that needs no addition.
This blog is part of a series reflecting on Tish Harrison Warren's book, Liturgy of the Ordinary. Our strange times are the furthest thing from ordinary, but her book explores the transformation that happens in the daily, monotonous rhythms of our lives. As many of us feel stuck doing all of life at home, we are reminded of how all of life is worship.