To call it a playhouse is a stretch. It was a tall corrugated water heater box with that distinct pulpy cardboard smell, and it had barely enough room for me as a five-year-old to turn around in. I could place a mud pie and a small plate of grass salad next to a wall. I could sit a doll in a corner, but she had to hold her bottle on her own little lap. The tight quarters didn’t faze me. Having to do without the accoutrements of a well-equipped kitchen were insignificant to me, overshadowed by the one magical feature of my little room – my kitchen had running water.
Back when Miracle Whip jars still had tin lids, my then 14-year-old brother used one to make a water dispenser for me. I don’t remember the details of his design. Besides the jar, he used a long thin silver metal pipe and a copper spigot. I still couldn’t explain the physics of it to you, but it took him all afternoon to construct and install it in my kitchen. Finally, came the magical moment when he showed me how to turn the handle and water bubbled up in the jar and out through the spigot. Just once. Then he hurried me out of my charmed little cardboard haven to tweak his design. I couldn’t wait to return to it the next day.
But the next morning it was gone. It might have blown away in the Oklahoma wind, but more likely my parents decided they didn’t want a tower of cardboard in their yard. Whatever the reason behind its disappearance, I was crushed at its discovery. This might have been my introduction to dashed hopes. Not that I was a particularly spoiled child; my parents often told me, “No.” I just had such visions for playing with that faucet, such hope for spectacular running water adventures in my little house.
Hope is a picture of a longed-for result and sometimes it seems that life is a series of dark room catastrophes – blessings that never reach the light of day. The important thing is to come out of the dark room, keep coming back to the real world to take more pictures. No new film ever originates in the dark room; it has to be obtained outside in the light – the glaring, harsh, glorious reality of light.
It surprises me less and less that the most memorable stories of my life contain quotidian elements like water. Jesus used those very things to describe Himself, to help me understand who He is. I understand more and more that who He is, is my one sure never-changing picture of hope.
“Jesus answered and said to her,’Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever, drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'” (Matthew 4:13-14)