I've been studying Proverbs for the last couple of months. I came to Proverbs 14:4 one morning back at the end of April and saw some strong encouragement for my sweet wife and the mother of our brood.Mothers have one of the toughest jobs on the planet and they need all the encouragement we can give them. So when I came to Proverbs 14:4 again yesterday morning, I was reminded of the encouragement I passed on to Beth from this verse. There might be a few other mothers (and other-than-mothers) who could stand a little encouragement in the midst of their messy, loving lives.In a sentence, Proverbs 14:4 is saying that the meals are worth the mess. Or, the crops are worth the crap. Here's how I put it to Beth.
Proverb 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, …
Wouldn't that be nice? A clean manger (read kitchen, house, laundry room, car, etc.)!
Imagine that! Everything in order. Everything where it belongs. No "ugh" when you walk back in the door after your errands. Only "ahh" as you return to your spotless domain.
Imagine it! No stains on the carpet or furniture. No spills or crumbs in the car. No spit up on your blouse. No toys on the floor. No art project explosions. No finger prints on the wall. No clothes on the floor. No sink full of dishes you didn't dirty. No school bags or lunch bags or coats or hats to contend with. No Lego bomb shrapnel to scoop up. No toothpaste in the sink. No “presents” left in the toilets.
A clean manger! What a blessing! Animals drool and stink and shed. Mangers are not the most hygienic environments in the world, you know.
…but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
But...a clean manger means not having more than just the mess. It also means not having the animals. And without the animals, you miss out on the crops.Imagine that! No little smiles and cuddles and giggles and hugs and kisses. No little homemade cards. No constant flood of opportunities to sow seeds of gospel grace and truth and love and service and "I'm sorry" and forgiveness and mercy and tenderness and toughness and discipline and discipleship. All of which grow slowly. All of which have their seasons of drought and storm. But the word will not return void and your labor is not in vain. You have and you will taste the fruit of your labors. You are feeding those oxen. The manger is a mess, but the crops can and will be abundant. All the fruit of His love, your love. Messy? Yes. Worth it? I'll let you answer that.
A clean manger? Wouldn't that be terrible? A clean manger is an empty manger. And an empty manger is not a good sign. This is a farm after all.With love,
Postscript: Motherhood is only one applicational direction for this proverb. You might not be a mother, but there is still a word for you here. If you live a small, selfish life, you might have all your ducks in a row, but duck arranging doesn’t produce much. The fruit of love is only birthed through the dirty work of relational plowing and seeding and watering and weeding and harvesting. These activities will take time away from dusting your ducks, and you’ll have to have more supplies and tools lying around, but harvest time will be rich!