Let’s talk about cows. More specifically, let’s zero in on oxen.
Here are some facts about oxen. Oxen are adult male bovines. Usually, oxen are castrated males – that’s right, they cannot reproduce. This helps them to stay calm and focused. Oxen are often preferred to horses. This is because they don’t cost as much, last longer, and can actually pull more per pound! Throughout history, the ox (singular) is preferred over the horse and is used more widely to work on a farm.
I’ve had experience on farms, growing up. However, I was always exposed to horses but not oxen. Cattle were usually bred for their milk or meat. I never had the pleasure of watching a team of oxen work together. One thing I did experience, not necessarily with pleasure, was cleaning out the barns!
Here is how it usually worked.
The cattle would be kept in the barn during winter. Cattle make a mess though. The farmer would periodically throw down straw to, you know, absorb the mess. Then, another layer of mess is dropped by the cattle and the cycle repeats itself. Eventually, you may have a foot or more of straw, manure, and build-up. We would then get our pitchforks and do the backbreaking work of loading this up and hauling it out on the field to be spread out for compost.
Consider this scripture from Proverbs 14:4.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by strength of the ox.
This is a helpful principle to keep in mind. Do you like the ox? He does come with a messy stall. Like an abundant crop? The harvest of crops comes with a mess! Don’t want a messy stall? Get rid of the ox. But before you cut him loose remember… he brings in the crops.
Vision often comes with mess doesn’t it? Valuable things come with a great cost. Little cost, little vision. Great vision, great cost. Where there is no mess, there is probably little vision underway.
When you are cleaning out the stall it smells, is hard, and you might be tempted to quit. Let’s keep the vision out in front of us – crops! Lots of crops!
Parents – kids come with a great mess. Aspiring professionals – advance comes with sacrifice. Follower of Jesus – growing in the ways of Jesus is often hard. Kingdom workers – ministry comes with setbacks. But consider – crops! An abundance of yield and reward is coming in the fall and that is the vision. Let’s keep that vision out in front of us and decline small-minded thought.
When you get weary of the messy stall train your mind to remember what is coming. When someone points out the mess in the stall you stay focused on the coming crop. Remember – if the vision is a clean stall, then the vision is not an abundant crop.
I’m not sure there is an abundant life without a messy stall. For that reason, staying focused on the messy stall is a short-sighted way to live. We might even say, if the vision is a clean stall then the vision will eventually die because there are no crops coming. Let’s work for the crops! Let’s stay big picture and live a large life.