Life is Messy

Without oxen a stable will stay clean,

But you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

Proverbs 14:4

In our day and age, few people have any idea what it's like to grow up on a farm. The closest most come to taking care of an animal is their dog or cat. While that does take responsibility, caring for a pet is minimal compared to maintaining large creatures on a farm. So, it's tempting to overlook King Solomon's wisdom in this verse. Yet, the observation isn't just about the ox.

During the biblical times of King Solomon, the Israelites highly valued oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 indicates these animals were a key to agricultural production, which is confirmed in the second part of this proverb. The strength of an ox produced many crops. By using them to plow and harvest, a household's prosperity would increase. Still, this growth came at a price. The oxen had to be fed and watered. Shelter was needed during storms. Worst of all, the animal created waste that had to be continually cleaned up. In other words, the profit it provided didn’t' come without a price.

The best way to mitigate the mess is found in the first phrase of this proverb. Just don't get an ox. Pretty simple. No ox, no expense and no mess. However, giving up the animal also meant giving up the advantages that came with it. Choosing a clean barn over the benefit of a crop isn't necessarily a good choice. That is Solomon's point. To be productive, we need to use the right means and methods. And with productivity we can experience some mess.

It's natural to become frustrated and discouraged when life gets messy. Big rewards usually require exercising effort, time and sometimes money. Not only that, accomplishing anything will include seasons of disarray, including untidy houses and barns. But a messy house (or a messy life) shows activity and not all opportunities come with an easy button. Yet the challenge is a chance to grow, even if some chaos comes with it. The investment of labor, whether in oxen, children, ministry or life in general, does come with a benefit. God has a plan, and when we commit our work to him, we will succeed. So, grab your boots and your shovel. Don't let the mess make you miss God's moment.

Life is messy.

But that's when God does his best work.


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Updated: May 21, 2020

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

There is an old fable about a king who had a failing garden. As he entered through the gate, he couldn't understand why the garden was withering. The king began talking to the plants as he passed. Stopping before an oak tree near the front, the king learned the tree was troubled because he was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine overheard the conversation and chimed in. Apparently, she was upset because she only produced pine cones, nothing like the delicious fruit of the pear tree down the row. When the pear tree heard his name, he joined the pity party complaining he didn't have a lovely smell like the spruce. And suddenly, every plant in the garden was grumbling.

Near the opposite edge of the garden the king saw a little daisy softly swaying in the wind. As he walked closer, he noticed her bright face, beaming in the sun. "Well my little flower," said the king, "Why is your face so happy today?" "Oh king," she said, "I was very unhappy being at the end of the path because no one ever noticed me. But one day it occurred to me, if you planted me here you must have had a good reason. So, I've decided to be the best daisy I can be!"

The point of this story is easy to see. Sometimes life is hard and things don't always go according to our plan. It can be challenging to take root, grow and mature when the environment is not what we want. While we can't always control the circumstances, we can control our response. It's our choice to survive and thrive, or shrivel up and fade.

Our master Gardener loves his plantings and places each one of us intentionally. Yet, conditions can make us feel overgrown by losses, troubles and frustration. Struggling against God's will obstructs our growth and prevents the potential of his intentions. But, just like the daisy, if we accept where God has planted us, we can flourish.

We are God's workmanship. Philippians 1:6 says, God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished. The construction will continue if we just look up. To bloom or not to bloom. The choice is yours.

We can thrive and bloom

If we are planted in the love of our Savior.

--Dieter Uchtdorf

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