Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Ox in the Stall

“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4

Life is messy. If you want to get anything accomplished, occasionally other priorities have to be put aside. That often means letting something fall apart for the sake of bringing something else to completion. When I was a teacher, every summer I redecorated a room in our home. For the duration of the couple of weeks that I stripped wallpaper, painted walls and trim, sewed curtains or shopped for accessories, the rest of the house completely suffered. A home-cooked meal became a rarity. As the weeks went on, the bathrooms would have caused the house to be condemned if a health inspector had ever come through. Soon, no one could find anything or even locate a pair of clean underwear. But it was worth all the inconvenience and disruption when the room was done and we could enjoy our pretty new environment.

Having children impacts our priorities to a great degree. I have seen the fussiest of housekeepers lose their sense of urgency for cleanliness at all cost when babies come along. A well-known poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton captures this sense of reprioritizing:

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

The above proverb of Solomon captures this idea as well. You can have a clean stall, or you can have an ox which makes a mess to clean. The difference is the latter enables productivity.

Creativity makes a mess. You can always tell I have had a great day of writing when the top of my desk is strewn with papers and books and empty dishes. I have been too inspired to worry about cleaning up after myself. Everything else fell by the wayside while the creative juices flowed. I was zeroed in on one thing-- and very little else registered on the radar screen.

God has goals He is working to accomplish in us. Sometimes that process gets pretty intense. When we are in the heat of the fire, we tend to lose perspective. We are zeroed in on the painful circumstance. Life begins to get messy. It starts to feel like everything else is falling apart.

But like any project we attempt, there is an end in sight. God will eventually achieve His purpose in the circumstance. We will grow in maturity and move further down the road to completeness. Our understanding of Him and His ways will become deeper. Our intimacy with Him will go further. And His work will not be in vain.

In the meantime, back in the fire, we struggle to keep all of the balls in the air. Not an easy task when we are in the midst of an overhaul. Sometimes the balls drop to the ground. We wearily pick them up and set them in motion once again. And we do the best we can to not allow other parts of our life to suffer as we go through the process.

Nothing is going to get accomplished in us without making a bit of a mess. But we can trust that the end result is worth the temporary inconvenience. We need to look at our circumstances with an eternal eye. And welcome the mess that comes with the ox.

1 comment:

Kim said...

thanks, Julie. This was perfect timing for me!