Of Flowers, Shoes, Oxen, and Kids

Alfred Austin once said, “show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”  I wonder what Alfred would say of me, seeing that my garden is withered from dog pee and chewed to the nubs by deer.

I have an unfortunate little garden by the side of our driveway.  I call it “unfortunate” because every year a friend of one of my kids, unfamiliar with our curvy driveway, backs over it with their car, crushing the plants underneath their tires.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the crushed remains of my Iris plants that had succumbed to the annual run-over.  It didn’t matter much to me that they were crushed — the deer had already chewed the buds off.  The flowers never even had a chance to bloom.

As I was cleaning this up, a thought occurred to me.  The same thought reoccurred as I was cleaning out the pantry, stepping over the 15 pairs of my kids’ shoes tumbled in a pile.  The thought was an old proverb that somehow got lodged in my brain back in college. It goes like this:

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

Life is easy when you don’t have any animals.  Your manger stays clean.  Everything’s in order, neat and tidy.  But there is little profit to be gained.  A farmer with an ox can make great things happen.  Fields are plowed, seeds are planted, a crop is harvested, food gets on the table.  The value of a good harvest far outweighs the tidiness of a clean manger.

When you have kids, sometimes things get broken.  Their friends back over your flowers.  Rooms get messy, closets are cluttered, bathrooms are a disaster.  We have 6 kids, 5 of which are still living with us. Each of them has 2 or 3 pairs of shoes they like to wear.  Do the math — that’s a lot of shoes cluttering the pantry.  If you’re a clean freak like I tend to be, these little annoyances can steal your happiness.

That’s rather silly in the big scheme of things.  I can’t let those little messes cloud the reality that those kids are extremely valuable.  They are offspring of my wife and I.  They have a special place in God’s heart.  God teaches me invaluable lessons through them.  These children are priceless, a far greater value than a clean house.

So, I will clean up those Iris and those 15 pairs of shoes with thankfulness.

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