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.