I love the birds near my house. They wake me up every morning with singing. Or squawking. Or crowing. They remind me that I am in a living world, that it flies, creeps, crawls, and sings with life.
I have other reminders. The snails in the kitchen, the ants in a line along the wall. Mold on the baskets, moss in my motorbike seat. A little white dog, snores from my family members. Plants that need water, white flowers falling from the tree. All of this is life. Life that changes, grows, moves, bursts, buzzes, lifts, explodes.
One of my favorite verses is “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4) It reminds me every day that messes are from life. Misunderstanding is from life. Life breeds, smears, and eats all the cheese. Life finds the chocolate stash. Life rains and wakes you up too early. Life accidentally steps on your new sprouting lettuce when it was playing a game with a lot of other chubby lives.
Where there are no oxen, no life, no explosive, inconvenient growth, you do not have to buy new shoes or take the kids to the dentist, or apologize, or make amends, or try so hard to understand someone from another culture, or stretch your brain to empathize, or wait, or cook food day in and day out.
An empty stall is clean and peaceful. And… empty. Nothing is happening, nothing is making a mess but nothing is coming back at the end of the day snorting and dancing its way into the stall, bringing in the sheaves, spilling its food, bringing stories and songs and a rich harvest.
Community is the ox, the life…it is better to have the ox. A good rule about life is that if it is messy, it probably means it is full of life.