Tracks in the Snow (Guarding Your Steps)
As a sportsman in rural Missouri, each season provides new activities to keep me engaged with and enjoying God’s creation. When the ice begins to melt and the temperatures rise in early spring, it means it’s time to gear up the boats, dust off the shotguns, and hit the rivers for spoonbill and the woods for turkey. As summer approaches, the catfish and crappie start biting. When fall comes, the leaves change colors and hunters spend endless hours sitting high in trees or low in blinds, with the hopes of “that buck” giving their arrows a shot. As temperatures cool, they grab their rifles in anticipation of the rut. Then winter comes, frost hits the ground, snow is on the horizon, and things dramatically change. The sweltering heat of a humid Midwest summer is harshly countered by the biting cold that often comes with winter. Many outdoorsmen pack up their rods, bows, and guns and wait until the warm breeze of spring. But not everyone. This is the time when another kind of outdoorsman arises. The trapper.
Trapping has always had a romantic allure to me. My father used to run a trap line when he was a kid, and being a Montana boy, the rugged independence of the early mountain men played an important part in my historical upbringing. The picture of the bearded, fur clad trapper picking up his pack and plodding through the snow, has with it a draw that few understand. But those who do, know what I mean.
Four years ago, I decided to begin trapping. After spending 7 years in the urban jungles of southern California and Seattle WA, the move back to a rural setting enflamed all my old country boy loves, and I decided I was jumping headfirst back into every outdoorsman activity I could. Trapping being the newest one. I run a modest trap-line. Numbering about 12 sets, focusing primarily on coyotes and bobcats. In the last few years, I’ve caught a couple bobcats, a few coyotes, as of this year my first red fox, and more raccoons and opossums than I care to count. I was a little late getting my traps into the ground this year, having done little scouting and relying on pathways that I know the animals tend to travel. Then snow came.
For some this was a nightmare, as all the cars in the ditch could attest to. For me, it was a welcome sight. Snow meant the animals would be moving more, and more movement meant more tracks, and tracks are indicators of where I should place my traps. Predators, coyotes and bobcats, are creatures of habit. Tending to stay in certain ranges, and circling through, often using the same trails and creek crossings they used before. Marking locations and fighting over territories they can claim as their own. Seeing fresh tracks appear over the same paths a couple days in a row, I knew where the main travel ways were. So, I purchased a couple more traps, laid them in the ground, baited them up, and now I wait.
As I was down on my knees, sifting dirt, grass and snow over a freshly laid trap, I began to ponder my target animal. He’ll trod the path I’m sure he’s walked a hundred times, scavenging and searching for food. Then something different will trigger his senses, he’ll veer off course just a little and before he knows it, he’ll be trapped.
Ever consider that no addict ever wanted to be an addict? No young man ever wanted an STD. No one ever entered into a marriage hoping it would one day fall apart. Alcoholics started as kids just having fun. Pregnant teens were enamored by some cute boy who actually liked them. Violent tempers and abusers started off as just letting off some steam. Bondage to porn started as a curious exploration of the sexual desires that God had planted in men and women as a gift for marriage. Very few people enter into sin wanting to be trapped. Yet, sin traps us. Our enemy is a ruthless hunter, and he’s been studying us humans for years. He knows the weakness of our flesh, he knows the paths we’re prone to take. He knows what baits to catch us with, and given a little time on his part, and a little apathy on ours, he’s almost always successful.
When Paul was dealing with a difficult situation in the Church in Corinth he said, that “no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11) Paul knew that Satan had a desire to infiltrate the work that he was doing, so he was on guard. As a seasoned Christian and minister, he had to go through some very trying times and deal with some very sensitive situations. He had seen Jesus wonderfully deliver souls, but he also had to hand people over to Satan because they fell into his traps (1 Cor. 5:5 & 1 Tim. 1:20). As a pastor, and even before, I’ve seen many a man and woman give into the allure of sin and find themselves trapped. Some, with absolutely devastating consequences- leading as far as death.
As believers, we need to watch our paths. We are as prone as anyone to go about life as normal and to not think anything of it. For this very reason, Satan knows where to find us and how to get us. So, like Paul we need to be on guard.
Change Your Path: For some, this may mean doing something different. If you are in bondage to sexual addictions (pornography, adultery, fornication, casual hookups, etc.) drug & alcohol, violence, laziness, gluttony, or whatever it may be. You probably need to make a change. Stop getting on the internet at certain times. Stop visiting certain establishments. Stop associating with certain people. If certain places illicit certain sins, you have to leave those areas of temptation and don’t go back to them. Instead, surround yourself with the people and environments that will lead to spiritual growth (Accountability with Christian friends, group studies, worship, church services, and personal disciplines).
“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)
Watch Yourself: We live in fallen world, with sin and temptation all around us. Even while doing the work of the ministry, we are called to deal with people, whether they want to or not, can illicit temptations in us. We need to be careful. I once heard of a minister who developed a sexual addiction because he spent so much time ministering to the sexually addicted. Rather than influencing them, he found himself being influenced by them. So be careful.
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)
Know Yourself: You are a human being. Thus, you have within you the fallen nature of Adam. Your flesh has a propensity toward sin. Yes, the Spirit will have victory over the flesh if you yield to Him, but your flesh will take every advantage it can to sin. If you weaken in Spiritual things, your flesh will get stronger and it will overtake you. So, don’t be prideful, thinking that once you’ve kicked a sinful habit it can never master you again. Worse yet, don’t boast about not ever being tempted by a certain thing. Satan will capitalize on any area of weakness he can find. Pride being a wide-open door.
“12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:12-13)
Call on Jesus: We’ve all been trapped before, but by God’s grace, we have a savior. One who’ll pry back the steely jaws of sin, and give us freedom. Freedom begins with confession. Coming to Jesus, owning up to our sin, laying it all down before him, and with heartfelt repentance, seeking his forgiveness. By his grace, He will forgive you, each and every time. The next step is obeying him. It’s no good to call on a savior and then to not follow Him to safety. We must make a choice to follow him. Do what He does, where He does, with the power He provides.
“if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:7-9)
“whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 Jn. 2:5-6)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)
Trapping is not easy. Some older coyotes who’ve been around the block can be quite difficult. They’ve learned to sense danger. Near misses, the oddest shift of soil beneath its feet, an out of place scent, or an innate gut instinct can trigger a flight response that will send it running, and guard it against the dangers that lay along its path. The next time you notice your own tracks in the snow, remember, you’re not the only one who’s paying attention to your steps. The enemy knows, he’s watching, and as Jesus said, Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (Jn. 10:10). Are you guarding your steps?