Living with a Dirty Trough
On June 24, 2000, I married my sweetheart--Ranae Breeden. It's a joy to be able to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary today. In truth, I appreciate and love her more as my wife today than I did then. I see her increased maturity and ever-growing strength to face many challenges. I can perceive more clearly now than ever before the wisdom in choosing her as my mate and the divine providence that I believe helped bring us together. Our lives have changed in dramatic ways in the past ten years and things have unfolded in ways we did not always expect. We had no idea I'd still be preaching for the same congregation of the Lord's people in Clinton, Illinois, who helped facilitate my training to become a gospel preacher. We had no idea I'd be spending many hours each week laboring to write and record Bible lessons to distribute via the internet. We had no idea we would be able to buy a home of our own. We had no idea Ranae would be working at home, keeping things going strong while educating our children. We had no idea we'd have four boys under the age of eight!

And speaking of children, I want to challenge your thinking with a verse from Proverbs today. Granted, Solomon's subject matter is not about children, per se, on this occasion, but there are some great applications to be made nevertheless - "Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox" (Prov. 14:4).

Oxen are stinky, dirty, and messy (as is the case with many animals). They don't clean up after themselves and can be quite a burden at times. They must have food and water to live. If you were to raise oxen, you might make use of a feeding trough. You'd have to keep it replenished regularly. Of course, if you sold all your oxen or they got sick and died, you wouldn't have to keep the trough full. It would become clean or empty. With no oxen to care for, life would be a little simpler, a little cleaner, and it would smell a lot better.

So, if there are many benefits to be enjoyed by being oxen-less, why would anyone go to the expense, time, and trouble to own them? Because "much increase comes by the strength of an ox." Especially before modern technological advancements in agriculture, there was so much that could be accomplished with a strong animal. The required food, mess, and stink were all worth the benefit that oxen could provide.

I know the parallel to children is not perfect, but you can see the application. With four boys in the house, messes are the norm in the Bradd residence, not the exception. It's a lot of hard work to keep them all fed, clothed, and relatively clean. There are dishes to be done, clothes to be washed, diapers to be changed, tables to be wiped down, floors to be mopped, food to be cooked, errands to be tended to, etc. And, like oxen, after you get them fed and things cleaned up, it's just a short span of time before you'll be doing it all again, and again, and again!

But, the joys of parenting far outweigh the continued required effort that must be invested to be effective. Children are indeed a heritage from the LORD (Psa. 127:3). Wise parents will continually remind themselves of this truth. It is often the case that a childless house will be much cleaner and orderly, but those homes may lack the vibrancy and excitement that children can bring. Sometimes a clean, immaculate house is an empty one. I wouldn't trade for that any day.

Some parents can't wait until the kids (whom they view as burdens) grow up and move out, but not Ranae and I. We love our children and can live with a dirty trough, so to speak. We might be tempted to tell you otherwise when there is pee on the floor, vomit on the carpet, ants in the house working on the food that inevitably ends up where it shouldn't, laundry piled up with no end in sight, etc., but we know that such is a small price to pay if we are to enjoy the smiles, hugs, laughter, joy, and the manifold other blessings God makes possible in parenthood.