I just got back from a short marriage retreat. (Yes, this has been a month of retreats for our family!) It was enjoyable. On the first night we watched a video about the differences between how men and women think. The pastor used a verse to describe marriage that I had never heard before. I'm sure I've read it, but have never thought about it much.
"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest." Proverbs 14:4 (NIV)
Or from another translation..."Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox."
At first glance this verse appears to be all about farming, which is probably why I didn't pay any attention to it. But I like how it was explained. Basically, if there are no oxen in the barn, there is no "poo" to clean up. Seems great, right? Less work...no animal to feed, no need to clean the barn, no effort required. But there is also no reward. From the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest! Applied to marriage it means that marriage takes work. It may seem easier to just kick the husband out and have less to worry about. But by doing so, we would lose all the blessings that come from having a marriage that has stood the test of time.
This verse can also be applied to parenting. If I had no kids, I would have a cleaner house and significantly less work to do! But the rewards of being a parent are greater.
I came across yet another application of this verse that I liked, written by a Baptist pastor..."Now if we don't want any problems, simply bar sinners from our doors. But that is not what God called us to do. We are supposed to be reaching out to people; all colors, all sizes, all shapes, all kinds of people who need help."Where no oxen are, the crib is clean." But thank God for the sinners who come here, dirty up our church and make us justify our existence. This pastor has a good point. Except I would say that if a church barred all sinners from its doors, it would be an empty building!
Whichever of these scenarios resonates with you, I challenge you not to be overwhelmed by the work and problems that your "oxen" create, but keep your eyes focused on the prize...on the abundant blessings that the strength of the "ox" will bring.