A Busted Mailbox, and Just Getting By Spiritually

Rural-Mailbox-Post

It was the middle of the night when someone swerved off the dirt road in front of our house and flattened our mailbox. It would have been better if the box and post were demolished, but they happened to be salvageable.

The post had broken below ground, so I stood it up and tamped the dirt back around it. A couple of leftover deck railing balusters nailed between the post and the landscape timbers around it made suitable braces. The contraption worked, but had a slight forward lean and twisted to the left, and looked like a busted post held up by two sticks.

“New post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. My wife, Sharon, and I discussed it at times, and we searched for what we wanted. Maybe it was time for a change – perhaps, a different style that would still fit with the dirt road location. After several tries to find something different, we gave up and decided on a mailbox identical to the one we had, and a post only slightly different from the old one.

“Put up post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. But, everyone knows you can’t rush out and just do it. You have to think and plan, consider the weather, decide to paint or stain the post, etc. etc. And, with a mailbox, you need to make sure you have the time to complete the installation without being interrupted (after all, the mail comes every day except Sunday, so you must have a place for it at delivery time.) So, the mailbox and post sat under the carport where I laid it when I brought it home from Lowes. After that, anytime I got in or out of the truck, I had to step around the post and mailbox.

I’m not sure how or why it all came together, but one Saturday morning I took down the old mailbox and began the installation. The post was standing and the mailbox labeled and attached when the mail carrier drove up. I asked her if the height suited her and met the regulations, and she said it was great. I tamped the post in and stained it, and the task was complete.

And, it only took me two years.

The problem was the old mailbox worked in its catawampus condition, so it never made it to the top of the to-do list. It was ugly, and the door might flop open if you didn’t close it just right, but it held mail just fine. As I said above, it would have been better if it had been a total loss. Then, I would have had to get a new one and install it quickly. But, we could get by with the old one and did, for two years.

Just getting by can become quite comfortable. The knowledge of something being out of kilter becomes blurred or filtered out of our vision. The thoughts of “I need to fix that” come farther apart and last shorter and shorter times, until the response becomes “Well, it’s not really that bad. I can get by with it.” And, we do just that – get by with it.

The physical things in our lives, such as catawampus mailboxes, should be addressed. But, it often happens the top of our to-do list should come on the spiritual side. “Just getting by” in that area could mean we’re outwardly following God’s Word, while inwardly our attitude conflicts with it, as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount (“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” Matthew 5:21-22.)

Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 13, our faith, knowledge and charity might be what people would consider good, but we are just getting by if we aren’t acting with love.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, berated the Scribes and Pharisees for just getting by with tithing of their herbs and spices, while leaving out such matters as mercy. I picture them proudly going to the Temple with their pouch containing an ounce of this herb and five grams of that spice, while stepping around the blind beggar on the steps outside.

As I said, just getting by can become quite comfortable, and in these busy times, sometimes it seems necessary. In some areas, such as mailboxes and posts, it may not be significant. But, if we discover we are just getting by (going through the motions, checking off a list, etc.) concerning our walk with God, it’s time to stop “stepping around the post and mailbox on the carport” and address it.

It’s possible that may be easy to do, but usually it won’t be comfortable and it won’t be instantaneous. It may take two days, or two years, or a lifetime of continuous work, but, thankfully we don’t have to do it alone (because we can’t).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

Shoutin’ “Whoooaaa” Before We Hit the Ground

Dirt road through the |]], near

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part of the Christianwriters.com blog chain. This month’s theme is memory, and here’s one of mine. Check out my friend’s blogs on their day from the list on the right.

My uncle’s old pickup bounced noisily along the dirt lane leading to his farm. My cousins and I sat on the tailgate and dangled our feet inches from the ground. We slumped against each other, exhausted from a day in the fields. But, the freedom of the open truck bed and the breeze from the movement began to revive us. Soon we were shouting over the truck noise and laughing as each pretended their intent to push another off the tailgate.

When the truck hit a bump, the sagging suspension allowed our feet to scrape the dirt. After a few times, we made a game of it. We inched closer to the edge and stretched our legs to see who could let their feet slide the longest.

It became precarious when we hit two bumps in a row. The first would cause us to stretch out and the second would bounce us quickly again, moving us closer to the edge.

I looked down and watched the dirt and grass between the ruts move steadily by. We weren’t going fast so it wasn’t zipping by – just a steady pace. I reasoned that if I was bounced off at that speed, I could just keep my legs moving and stand up.

At the next pair of bumps I got to try my theory out. As we hit the first one, we all stretched out, giggling at what by now we understood to be danger. The second bump was more of a hole. The tires went deep and then quickly up to the top, sending the truck’s rear end into the air. With that, my rear end bounced off the tailgate and when it came down, I was too near the edge to stop. I scrambled for a handhold but found none.

I whooped out a long “Whooooaaaa!” as I sailed off the truck, and flailed my feet in hopes of remaining upright. But, my theory had at least one fatal flaw. I had not considered the direction I was facing. If a mishap occurred, I would come off the truck backward. No matter how good you are, you can’t run backward as fast as forward.

That was proven as my feet hit the ground. Rather than showing any semblance of uprightness, my back and then my head followed quickly onto the dirt. I slid awhile, came to a stop and lay there in the middle of the road.

By then my cousins’ shouts had alerted my uncle to stop, and they jumped out of the truck and dashed back to see if I was hurt. The slide had torn my shirt and scraped my back – but thankfully, there were no broken bones and nothing more serious than a nice goose-egg from the head banging.

I thought I had it figured out. I knew I was on the edge but kept inching closer. Surely, my plan would take me through. If I was bounced, or pulled, or pushed over the line, I could easily use my own strength to keep straight. But, as I lay in the road staring up at the sky, it was clear my own strength had been useless – either to prevent me from falling as I kept tempting danger, or to hold me up once the boundary had been crossed.

It’s not unusual for us humans to think we’re stronger or smarter or quicker than we really are. Sadly, it’s also not unusual for us believers to walk close to the edge of temptation, relying on our own strength.

We read of Samson and Delilah in the Book of Judges. Each time she asked how he could be defeated, he became more arrogant in his answers. Finally, he told her cutting his hair was the secret.

That night Delilah had someone shave Samson’s head while he slept, and then she cried out the Philistines were there. He jumped up, ready to defeat them as before, but found he had no strength. His hair had been cut, but the real problem was that God had left him – and Samson didn’t even know it. He had toyed with temptation and eventually crossed the line. Samson quickly found that without God, his own strength was useless.

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Pro. 4:14-15 ESV). God knows our tendency to think we can handle temptation on our own, and He knows that we will fail if we try. His Word has many verses like these, that warn us with verbs like “avoid”, “turn away”, “depart” and the one that expresses it most dramatically – “flee!”.

We shouldn’t be walking close to the edge – we should be running the other way, because our strength will not keep us from being bounced, pushed or pulled over the line where temptation gives way to sin.

But, thankfully, God has not left us to our own strength. The Bible also has many verses that promise He will be our strength. If we take the warnings to heart and trust in His promises and His power, we won’t find ourselves whooping out a “Whooooaaaa!”, flailing our feet and hoping to stay out of the dirt on our own.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)