Friday, March 15, 2013

Proverbs 14:4 It ain't clean, but...

When I was pregnant with Emmy, Don and I had our condo up for sale. For four months I had to keep the house picked up so that we could show it to prospective buyers. Molly was two at the time, so that meant following her around all day and picking up! When we finally moved into our new house, Don had grown so accustomed to our place looking like a model home, that he maintained that expectation. It was impossible with a new baby added to the mix! Laundry, puzzles, games, books, and dishes just kept multiplying like loaves and fishes!

Then one day, as I was reading through Proverbs, I came across this verse:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,

    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)

I rejoiced that God was acknowledging that a productive environment will NOT be immaculate! A clean barn (house) means nothing is happening! There is nothing productive going on! If you want profit, there will be a mess - including oxen poop on the floor! Model homes look the way they do, because no one lives in them! A house with fake TVs in the family room, fake food in the kitchen, and only three pieces of clothing hanging in the closet is not real! No one sleeps in those perfectly made beds. No meals are prepared or eaten at the sparkling kitchen bar.

God is all for getting things messy! It’s a sign that things are happening! Jon Courson has an interesting take on this passage. He believes that people who have to have everything perfect are not risk takers. They play it safe and don’t take on challenges. This is what he says:

Many people boast that their stable is clean. They don’t make mistakes. There are no “pasture patties” on the floor of their barn. But neither do they have any profit. You see, if a farmer boasts about the cleanness of the floor of his barn, it’s because he doesn’t have any livestock. Each one of us from time to time has a tendency to say, “I want a clean barn. Therefore, I’m not going to take a chance. I’m not going to accept a challenge. I’m not going to step out lest I mess up.” Yet the fear of failure is inevitably the father of failure. When we fear failing, we will inevitably end up doing just that. Oh, our barn floor might be as clean as a whistle. But inside, we’ll be empty.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Old Testament, Vol. 2, P. 220.)

One of the reasons I’ve always hated baking is because it is so messy. But I knew that when my girls were young, it was a mandatory activity. I needed to make cookies and cakes with my girls, because that was what good moms did. So I did it! I set aside my fear of flour-covered counters and rolled out the cookie dough! The girls loved it! In fact, I had them trained by the time they were 8 years old to make and decorate their own birthday cakes. They love baking to this day, and their homes often smell of freshly baked goodies! Don and I, on the other hand, only enjoy fresh-baked items from a bakery! :)

I was fortunate to have some wonderful older women as mentors when I was a young mommy, and I will never forget two of them, who were in their late 60’s at the time, telling me how much they regretted the emphasis that they had placed on having a clean home when they were raising their children. They were lamenting that they had wasted so much time dusting furniture and scrubbing the floor that could have been better spent ON the floor doing puzzles with or reading to their kids. So, in my opinion, one of the best investments a young family can make is to bring in a housekeeper a couple of times a month! :)

What’s the take-away from this verse? Well, it’s more than just relaxing about the state of my house (although I like that). I need to look at areas where I’m so worried about taking a risk to mess up, that I don’t step out of my comfort zone to do something “messy” for God. If I want to do something exciting for Him and with Him, I need to be prepared to roll up my sleeves and get dirty in the trenches. More on this later...  

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