While Will was home for his lunch break, I read to him out of T4T (a book written by Steve Smith with Ying Kai). The book uses a verse from Proverbs to show that a lot of mess is normal for vibrant churches. Here’s the verse:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
(Proverbs 14:4 ESV)
And a quote from the book:
“Solomon made it very clear. If you want a stable with no mess, don’t get an ox in the first place. But if you want to plant and harvest, you need several oxen and plan to clean up a lot.
“Which would you rather have: a clean, orderly system with few results OR hundreds of people coming to faith and groups starting, but with it lots of problems? You can’t have growth without mess. It’s a kingdom dynamic.” (T4T, pg. 159)
“This is so good!” I exclaimed to Will. “I’m tired of orderly systems that don’t go anywhere. The mess can be scary, but I love the prospect of being part of something life-giving!”
Ten minutes later, Will was packing up to leave for work again. I sighed as I looked around our messy house. “Seems I do nothing but pick up after children around here,” I said.
Will replied (not unsympathetically), “Where there are no oxen…”
I snickered at myself. Here I was being so dreamy about a real, down-to-the-pavement kind of church, and missing the job right under my nose! In this case, what applies to healthy churches applies to healthy families–doing it well means working with the mess. I have all these little people to train in the ways of godliness. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
Yes, I still do want to be part of a picture bigger than my family. I want my children to experience our family reaching out to others. I want them to see God at work in the world, not just at our house. But a lot of the gritty work does happen here at home.
I have oxen to train, I’m learning alongside them, and it’s going to be messy sometimes.
But I am looking forward to the abundant harvest.