This year we celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Ox.
The ox is a symbol of strength. Without the strength of the ox, there would be no harvest. What would take many donkeys and horses to do – the ox could do it easily. Hence the idiom “As strong as an ox.”
The ox is an animal of blessing.
There is a Bible verse about the blessing of an ox.
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” (Proverbs 14:4 NKJV).
The wisdom of this scriptural verse is that blessings come with mess.
Oxen bring abundance of crops and harvest but they also bring along the mess in the trough and manger. There can be no blessing without the accompanying mess.
Oxen make the work of ploughing easy but it also get our hands dirty and our feet wet.
So often we want the blessing but not the mess.
We longed for a mighty harvest of souls and not realized that the blessing comes with messy consequences. With more people in church, the car park will naturally be a headache, the fellowship hall messy and the toilets a lot dirtier.
If you want to see growth in the church, you’ll need more hands on the plough and more feet on the harvest fields. You will need to discard the old ways, the old methods, the old structures and fixtures. Church growth is a messy deal.
The blessings of joy and fulfilment in marriage and raising a family are also a messy deal.
Still some lament and reminisce the days of freedom to go wherever and do whatever before they were married.
Remember the perceptive wisdom of Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen (i.e. spouse and children), the manger (i.e. house or bathroom) is clean.”
So are the blessings of a job promotion or highly paid position. They come with a mess. They complicate life and daily routine.
We long for the blessings of having cars and owning several properties. They too have messy consequences. They divert your time, energy and resources for upkeep, maintenance, repairs and the yearly hassle of insurance renewals and taxes.
Are there blessings without some mess?
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” That’s a true ox blessing.
On this Lunar New Year, I wish you and your family the blessings of the Ox (“Niu”).
Do bear in mind, blessings come with a quite bit of mess. Still, they are totally worth it.
Happy “Niu” Year!