Christmas is a time where we can’t quite seem to make up our minds about families. On the one hand we look forward to the idyllic gathering portrayed by greeting cards showing rosy-cheeked family members enjoying each other’s company over Christmas lunch. On the other, stories abound about stressed-filled days of discontent, disappointments, disagreements and well, just plain dis’ing.
A colleague recently pointed me to Proverbs 14:4… “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”
This proverb applies to relationships.
“Where there are no families/relationships, the manger is clean, but abundant blessings come by the strength of families/relationships”.
Not to put too fine a point on it… to reap the benefits of having an ox, we need to get our hands dirty.
Poo is a normal healthy part of life. In fact, without the process of intestinal evacuation, we’d all be dead! In the same way, healthy relationships are messy and is hard work.
The benefits of owning an ox, comes at a cost – the unenviable task of keeping the manger clean. In my previous job, I had the privilege of getting to know Neema Crafts, a community project in Tanzania working to transform the lives of people with disabilities by providing training and employment. One of their first project involved turning elephant dung into Christmas cards! The process is complicated, stinky and takes tremendous effort but the transformation of dung into paper is nothing short of remarkable! The paper products have in turn given this little enterprise notoriety and commercial success.
Similarly, there is a cost to enjoying the blessings of a family; but one has to deal with the relational number 2s that come with it.
Great relationships don’t just happen. It takes hard work; a large dose of grace, kindness and patience. But the rewards are well worth it.
At this time when we are reminded about how much it cost Jesus to leave the glory of heaven to reconcile us back to a restored relationship with God, let’s think also about what we need to do to develop, nurture and reconcile the relationships with the people we love most.
Relationships, as we all know is a communal dance involving others. We can’t do everything ourselves. But we can do something. May the Lord bless and multiply your efforts by His grace this Christmas time.
May He fill us with His love so that we may love in turn…
PostScript -There is an important caveat to this lavatorial parable. If there is too much poo, we have a seriously sick animal – and it’s probably time to call in a vet or a family therapist!