“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of an ox.” — Proverbs 14:4
Everybody loves a clean house or desk or workshop. After several hours of tidying and organizing my living room, kitchen, and kids’ playroom, there’s a sense of relaxation, a sigh of easiness, and proud moment of success. Then, life happens. Meals made, toy boxes emptied (dumped!), shoes flung off, jackets strewn about, and so on and so on. The bliss is only temporary.
If you want fruit, mess is unavoidable. When we understand this, and learn to embrace it, we begin to see that the harvest of a messy life is more desirable than the lack of a clean manger.
At these moments, we can be helped by Proverbs 14:4 which can allow us to see the goodness and grace in the struggle and chaos of life. It’s easy to have things “just the way we like it” when all we have to worry about is ourselves. But opening our lives up to our spouses, raising children, and even welcoming in one another and strangers means that we may not always have things “just the way we like it.” And that can certainly be frustrating, if not a little trying. But the Proverb contains a truth (and a promise) that helps us come to grips with the mess of life. It tells us that “abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” I love the logic of this verse! To effectively work the field of our labor, we need oxen, and oxen are messy. So if you want fruit, mess is unavoidable. When we understand this, and learn to embrace it, we begin to see that the harvest of a messy life is more desirable than the lack of a clean manger.
This can be applied in more ways than the cleanliness of the home. To help see the truth of the Proverb in all of life, ask yourself what fruit or harvest you desire to see in your marriage, family, and relationships, and what is the ‘strong ox’ that needs to work that field? In order to see fruit in marriage, maybe saying no to another work commitment is needed. In order to deepen the relationship with a friend, maybe hospitality is needed. In order to serve others, maybe your time or checkbook is needed. All of these come with a price — a mess — but it is a cost worth paying for the abundant harvest of fruitful blessing.
God supplies us with the strength we need to embrace the hard and difficult (and messy!) work of tending to and laboring in the field of our calling.
Best of all, behind this promise lies another: that God supplies us with the strength we need to embrace the hard and difficult (and messy!) work of tending to and laboring in the field of our calling. We are told that God is at work within us, bringing about his will and creating a heart ready to do it (Philippians 2:13), as well as that God has made us for such hard and necessary work (Ephesian 2:10). If these are true, then we can face with joy the muddy manger of our lives as evidence of God’s grace in calling us to himself for such good works.
What, then, is the mess you should embrace in order to work for the abundant crop of God’s calling for you? What is the work that you must undertake, knowing that it will be hard and messy, so that you may have and experience the greater joy of God’s faithfulness?