Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (Proverbs 14:4 NLT)
I was single and on my own for a number of years before I met my husband. I had a routine. I had a way that I liked things, whether it was the food I cooked or the way I squeezed the toothpaste tube. Then I got married. Suddenly things weren't always where I left them. There were more dirty dishes. More piles of laundry. I love my husband dearly and it didn't take us too long to find a new rhythm (happily, he actually enjoys cleaning!), so after a time, we settled in once again.
Then we had a child.
You guys, children are amazing. And they grow at this PHENOMENAL pace. They develop and change on a daily basis. It's a thing of beauty to watch. And, well, it pretty much means your routine is constantly adjusting. All. The. Time. Just when you feel like you have figured out how to use naptime for chores, baby stops napping during the day! What? Why?? Constant minor adjustments. Constant.
So the thing is, when you are making constant adjustments to your routine, things kind of get out of hand sometimes. The bathroom doesn't get scrubbed quite as often as you would like. Somehow there are crumbs in literally every crack and cranny of your entire house, even if you sweep/vacuum three times a day (and who has energy for that?). You begin to evaluate just how much food and snot can be on your favorite jeans before you have to throw them in the washing machine again. You have no idea where half your silverware is. You try to remember what it felt like to have routine that involved regularly taking care of your fingernails. It's crazy.
But you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
My eldest child is only 17 months. My second isn't even born yet. I will not pretend that I have experienced all the craziness of raising children or even begun to taste the joys of watching them become their own persons. But I pray for it. I pray that the love I show to my little oxen strengthens them into women who bring in a large harvest of love and joy and Godliness. I pray that for every time I have to muck the stable out (again and again), that for every bit of order I have given up, my daughters are gaining an ounce more confidence in God and in themselves.
Sometimes I lose patience with the changing routine, the chaos, the exhaustion. Sometimes I just wish my daughter was old enough to give herself a dang bath at night. But this verse brings me hope and confidence. It reminds me that an empty stable is a useless stable. Please don't think that I mean everyone should have kids. Kids are really only one kind of oxen. Your oxen might be working with the homeless or opening your house to hungry college students searching for identity. No matter what mission God has given you, I simply mean that it helps me to let go of the desire for perfection to remember that oxen just do bring in the mess of poop and hay and dirt and sweat and hungry bellies. The stable cannot stay perfectly clean. But oxen also bring in the harvest. One day, I pray, the oxen will bring in a large harvest.