Nate Hester: Mailbow
There is one thing that the country has over the city: the golf cart ride to the mailbox.
See us country folks, we live out here in the backwoods, draws and hollers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, we can’t afford to live anywhere else; this piece of land might be the only thing that grandma left to momma that momma left to you. Others amongst us prefer to be close to nature: to hear the warblers argue with the mockingbirds atop the tulip poplar tree or to sit in a deer stand all day eating packs of nabs and listening to the race through headphones. Or, maybe, we chose to just live at a slower pace or grow our own vegetable garden or be surrounded by a community of kinfolk that can help out with Friday night babysitting. At its best, we chose to live out here because unlike in the midst of the tide of the dominant, rat-race culture, God still seems to matter out here, to speak to us out here. At its worst, we chose to live out here because frankly, we just want to be left alone.
The golf cart ride to the mailbox is one of those spots where our landscape reveals who we really are. It shows our true colors. You see: we want to live far off of the main drag. And we want to live where no one can see our house or be all up in our business. But we don’t want to live where we have to walk a half-mile to the mailbox every day; that’s just too plum far.
So, that’s where the golf cart steps in.
We ride, ride, ride; we let it ride. We ride down the long, bumpy, dusty meadow strip of a driveway that come next spring after the rains end needs to be resurfaced with fresh gravel, that needs to be sprayed to keep the weeds back, and that needs a new culvert cut to prevent flooding. This daily activity of riding reveals our independence and our ingenuity, but it also exposes the more nefarious side of our social dislocation, our antisocial libertarianism, and our autonomous recalcitrance. After all, a country boy can survive! We don’t want anyone’s help! No zoning! No federal subsidies! We can manage just fine on our own! Thank you very much!
But what meets us at the mailbox is an altogether different signature on the landscape. It is an arc, scripted into grass and dirt along the shoulder of the road, not unlike the rainbow, as if it could have been etched by the very finger of God’s self. Since our mailboxes are set back a few feet off of the road so that careless drivers, drunk teenage vandals and oversized rigs don’t demolish it and in order for the mail deliverer to get to where they can reach the box safely, one has to veer off the road, ever so slightly, just a foot or two. The rubber of the wheels crunches pebbles slowly and deliberately like the last of the kernels of microwavable popcorn.
And it is not just those that deliver the parcel post either, because our neighbors and friends too pull off the road and up to our mailbox to drop off birthday cards and loaves of banana nut bread and promotional flyers to bazaars and barbecues. Day after day, month after month, year after year, the wheels of the tires on the right side of vehicle after vehicle carve a new path. This is a path that calls us back into community, that reminds us that others care about us, that insists that we cannot go it alone.
This path through the grass is the same arc that God carves across your heart and over the entire landscape of human history. Every time we seek our own way in the world, rain or shine, God shows up, pulling into our driveway sometimes extravagantly, oftentimes subtly, always lovingly.
Have you been lately to see how God has pulled off the road for you? Have you seen how God’s path has drawn nearer to you? Have you checked to see what God has left in your mailbox this day?
Nate Hester is a Rural Ministry Fellow and student pastor of the Middleburg-Hermon Charge in Middleburg, N.C.