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Why mailboxes are not all the same

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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mailboxes
© Jim Denison

Our neighborhood in North Dallas is replete with mailboxes like these. They stand on every street in front of every house. They come in all shapes and kinds—some are brick, while others are metal or plaster. Some structures have locking mailboxes, while others do not. Some display their house number; others display the number and the street name; others display neither. Some are rounded on top, while others are squared.

They all perform the same functions. And yet no two seem just alike.

Some are designed to match their house—red brick with red brick, stucco with stucco. Others are not—metal boxes standing in front of brick houses.

Why do we seek such variety for otherwise utilitarian devices?

We can ask this question about much of daily life. Why do vehicles come in so many colors? Apart from the obvious—camouflage for military vehicles, yellow for taxis, and so forth—they serve no functional purpose that I can detect.

Why do people wear such a variety of clothing colors and styles? Some form a purpose more than others—suits at formal settings, jeans at informal. But even then, men wear a blue suit today and a gray suit tomorrow.

Our interest in aesthetic variety mirrors that of our Maker. For example, in the vision of the new temple given to the prophet Ezekiel we read: “On all the walls around, inside and outside, was a measured pattern. It was carved of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub” (Ezekiel 41:18–18).

These carvings served no functional purpose. They did not make the walls of the temple stronger or more accessible. They were purely aesthetic. And yet their unique and intricate design served the larger purpose of glorifying the One who designed them.

It is the same with objects as mundane as mailboxes and as intricate as oil paintings and sculptures. There is something in us that seeks excellence, that wants to express ourselves in ways that mirror the beauty that surrounds us in nature.

Here’s my takeaway: you and I should focus on what makes us unique in all of God’s creation, then develop that uniqueness to its fullest degree to the glory of God.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis commented on Jesus’ statement that we must be as children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2–3). Lewis noted that God “wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but he also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job and in first-class fighting trim.”

What can you do that only you can do?

Will you “do all to the glory of God” today (1 Corinthians 10:31)?