Disappointment at the end of the driveway. Strange that a walk taken every day, with monotonous results, should still be such a hopeful thing. I go every day, regardless of sweat or soiled feet, expecting, somehow, to find some dispensation from heaven in that green box with its door that falls open and its flag that falls down. Instead, there are the usual array of letters asking me to give money, letters offering to help me spend money more easily, advertisements showing me what to spend that easy money on. A different letter that was to have arrived a month ago has still to make its appearance, and the email sent to inquire after it has gone unanswered for over a week.
The walk is not so pleasant as it was a month ago. Despite the laws of nursery rhymes, May has seen the end of our flowers, and the only aroma wafted on the breeze is an agricultural aroma from our neighbor’s cow pastures. The little dog thinks it is too hot, now, to come willingly, and has to be coaxed and cajoled until company seems not worth the trouble.
Still, the door to the mailbox always opens when I put my hand on it, which is more than can be said for other doors, and if nothing today, there is always tomorrow. “Hope deferred,” as Marilynn Robinson says, “is still hope.” In the absence of the large door for which I look, there small doors, every day. I find some of them — the pile of wrinkled laundry to smooth, the kitchen to clean — and miss a great many more — smiles that ought to be given, words that ought to be swallowed.
On arriving at our new home in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas, years and years ago, my little brother declared that “Texas [was] made of bricks.” We laughed at him, for everyone knows that Texas is large, with plains and swamps and rivers and cowboys and cities and orange sunsets over fields of wildflowers; it is not an ordinary three-bedroom single-family dwelling with little backyard and a sloping driveway. And yet, to a great degree he was right. It is we who mistake the large and showy ideas for the realities of daily life. We lived in Texas, and most of the time we lived in Texas it was in that boring little brick house, not on the rolling plains under the vast skies.
We like to think of the glamorous ideals when we think of the Christian life, as well. We think of great visions and great sacrifices, flaming revivals, inspired years. We forget that most of the time, the Christian life is also made of bricks. Mornings when the children in the VBS classroom will neither hear nor understand. Hours when the basses must repeat and repeat their line for the Sunday anthem, still confused by the dotted quarter note. Moments when loving those that love you seems so hard that loving your enemies seems a task not worth beginning. No vast vistas of faith appear, spread with wildflowers; there is only the little, fenced back-yard, which must be mown, even if it is mostly weeds.
And there is the mail that must be checked, even if it contains nothing grand, even if you get sweaty while going for it, even if your feet get dirty and the dog won’t come. Despite all those things, somehow, checking it is good.