“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean. But, much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4)
I love the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Each little kernel of truth is maybe one or two sentences arranged in one or two verses without much context or explanation. Maybe it’s the time of day, but sometimes I’m left thinking, “Hold on. I know this is profound, probably even life-changing or relationship changing or more, but I’m gonna need a minute.”
This particular proverb stood out to me today as a jewel of wisdom to help me keep my eyes on the main thing.
I’m one of those that derives a certain amount of comfort and security from being in an orderly, relatively clean space -- at least, as orderly and clean as you can get with a somewhat pack-rat mommy, husband, dog, cat, two toddlers, one on the way, and all the “stuff” that comes with each. Nevertheless, we do try. And while our ordering system may not be readily apparent to the naked eye, it IS ours and we like it. I have found that when my surroundings are in chaos, so is my brain. An uncluttered home frees up an uncluttered mind and spirit.
Which brings me to my predicament...
Saturday was partially spent cleaning and getting our home to a nice state of relative calm. Then, not even 12 hours later, I’m faced with a sink full of syrupy dishes, carpet littered with cupcake/french fry bits, and floors dotted with mud. Plus, various nap time pauses and my own 6-months-pregnant lack of energy have left my nesting projects in the boys’ rooms in a more chaotic state than when I started. My first instinct: run screaming from the house.
Then, I see Proverbs 14:4, cleverly posted above the stove: “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean. But, much increase comes by the strength of the ox.”
Now, I’m no oxen expert, but I’m guessing that they can produce quite a mess. And, the only way to avoid it is not to have them in my manger. Yes, that might help the barn stay spotless, but look at the “increase” I’m missing. It’s obvious. The strengths of the oxen FAR outweigh their mess.
When it comes right down to it: No amount of sticky fingerprints or clothes-strewn rooms or muddy floors could ever diminish the great joy I receive from the family God has given me. Those giggles and squeals, drum beats and bouncing balls are a priceless increase. So, we live with a few crumbs, and our coffee table has honey mustard stains. At least we’re all in the same room; everyone is healthy and growing and (at the moment) smiling; and I can grab them and kiss them any time I want. I am a wiser woman when I keep my focus on the blessing and my thoughts away from trivial complaints.