Crumbs, the noise of laughter and galloping feet, smudges on the windows and stains on the floor, even discarded Kleenex, broken dishes, crayoned walls and coats shed here and there – they are all signs of life.
Sometimes I get frustrated because the house isn’t as tidy, or things as under control, as I would like. But something Solomon once said really strikes me:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. | Proverbs 14:4, ESV
You can have a clean, spotless manger if you have no oxen. But you forfeit the abundance an ox can yield. By the same logic, you can have an always clean and organized house, if you have no family. Even farther, you can have a chapel where hymn books and benches are always neatly in place, where never a shout, wail, crash or cellphone is heard, where no interruptions or eccentric guests disturb worship. But at what a price! To give up these (sometimes annoying) signs of life would be to give up what is most important.
Sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves what it is we really want: A clean manger? A perfect house? A flawless chapel? Or the abundance the oxen’s strength brings, the gratifications of a family, the rewards of fellowship – “collateral effects” included?