Waiting for What Matters (A Lesson on Trivialities and Patience)
The story I’m about to share may not sit well with some readers, as it involves a hobby that is distasteful to some. However, the truth I hope to get across is one we all need to hear.
It had been over 30 minutes when the Lord spoke to my heart. My crossbow resting atop an old hedge fence post, finger braced against the trigger guard, and eyes focused on the tips of eight slender antlers protruding just above the stalks of soy beans. Earlier, when I had first begun to approach my tree-stand a thought entered my mind, one that comes through years of experience and failures. Slow down, and look. I immediately stopped, and began to dissect the field of beans 40 yards to my left. Sure enough there it was, standing in the corner. The same tall narrow racked buck I had put a stock on just two nights earlier. Head lowered, nibbling at the beans. I immediately crouched down. Dug my range finder out of my pack. Placed it quietly into my pocket and crawled on my belly the 40 yards to the fence row.
I peeked my head up and saw nothing. The deer was gone. As my heart sunk, my eye caught some movement off to the right. The buck had just bedded down and all I could see was its antlers. I crawled down the fence row to try and close the distance. Slowly standing, I recognized the deer was unable to see me from where it was bedded, only eight small points barely stuck above the beans. I got a steady rest for my crossbow and waited.
The minutes passed by like hours. I just stood there, eyes focused, heart slowly calming, finger ready to take the shot. 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minuets…. I stood and the buck just lay there, only 35yds away. I tried some soft grunts and low fawn bleats. All I got in response was the slow turn of antlers as the buck adjusted its ears to locate the familiar sounds. Reaching my right hand into my pocket, I looked down at my phone and texted my wife, “45 minute standoff 35yds…Buck”. A few moments later I heard the irritating sound of two does snorting off “blows” to alert others of a present danger. I turned my head, and 37 yards behind me stood two young deer, not sure what to do with the strangely dressed figure by the fence. They ran away, returned, and started blowing. Ran away, once more returned, this time venturing further out into the small sliver of cattle pasture, trying to identify what this strange creature was. Eventually the curiosity wore off, and they bounded away, blowing as they went. To my surprise, the buck remained bedded and content.
Being a Christian, much of my mind’s time is spent pondering the things of the Lord. It’s been that way now as long as I can remember. You can ask my wife. If I’m not reading, I’m listening to podcasts/sermons, if not that, I’m praying, if not that then I’m likely working on that next week’s sermon. Does not matter what I’m doing, my mind always goes back to the Lord. Hunting is certainly no different. I spend most hours of a hunt sitting in a tree, listening to podcasts, or reading a book (With the occasional Facebook post for good measure. Come on, it’s 2020 after all). As I stood, looking out into this bean field, vacillating between patience and irritation, the Lord took advantage of this moment of uninterrupted silence and spoke to my heart. “If it takes this much patience to achieve a trivial goal, how much more patience do you need to attain an eternal one that really matters?”
In the wide scheme of things, hunting is truly a trivial endeavor. My office is decorated with antlers, ranging from the very first buck I shot, to my most recent success. My crossbow hangs in the corner, and the pelts of three fur bearers in the other. Skulls, bones, turtle shells and various firearms litter my study. But why? Do they have any real value? Depends on your scale of value I guess. For me, they are memories, and totems of past joys. If you picked one up, I could easily share with you a story that goes with it. Truly, the only value they have is what they represent to me.
In the future, I hope they bring my three daughters fond memories of dad. My son, who enjoys hunting has already begun his own collection, but after I’m gone what will become of mine? I doubt my girls will want them. If my son ends up serving Christ in some distant field, he certainly won’t take these emblems of my memories with him. Why should he? They are not his memories, but mine. He has his own to make. Are they valuable to me? Yes. But are they intrinsically valuable representations of memories that will last forever? No, probably not. As Solomon said, “We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” (Ecc. 1:11 NLT) A few of my trophies may be handed down to future generations, but undoubtedly most will be lost and the memories forgotten with time.
What is truly valuable? I’m sure many things could be listed, but few can even compare with the value of an eternal human soul. Of all the things in existence, little matters as much as a person coming to know Christ as their savior. Followed up with being taught the ways of Christ so that they can persevere through this life until God takes them home. What other endeavors matter as much as this? Not many.
As a pastor, this weighs heavily on my heart, some days more than others. All who have been entrusted with the care of souls feels this incredible weight. I’ve counseled many a Christian parent who feared for the eternal destiny of their hard-headed child. I’ve read many a letter written by a concerned grandmother for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I’ve prayed with wives that their husband’s stony hearts would soon be softened. All of them wanting the same thing, “To see the ones they love, loving their Jesus.”
Oh, how we wish that everyone we loved would immediately come to know Christ as their Lord. Yet, it’s often not quick. If you had asked me 6 years ago where I thought the church I shepherd would be at today, I would have hoped for a bit more progress, but every Sunday I see empty seats. Despite the best efforts of me and many others sharing our faith, the progress is slow, and waiting can seem unbearable.
Yet, we are called to endure and press on. We can’t quit, we can’t give up. The pursuit of a person’s soul for Christ is the most important hunt we could ever go on. If I’m willing to stand in position for an hour, just waiting for a chance at a deer, how much more patience should I have in my service to Christ? The scriptures give me a strong view of God’s sovereignty. The buck laying in that field was a gift, intentionally put by God to “satisfy my heart with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17b). If I had grown impatient, I could have quickly blown the hunt and missed out on the blessing the Lord had for me. Even if it was trivial, it was still a blessing from God’s hand.
In the same way God has sovereignly, “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27). God created me and placed me in the time that He knew I would find him. As well, He has placed others in my path that they too might grope for Him and find Him through my sharing the gospel with them. If I grow impatient, I could blow the opportunities set up by God, and miss out on what He desires to accomplish through my efforts. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is an incredible mystery, but what the Lord has charged us with is clear, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:8-10)
An hour and 15 minutes had passed. I reached again into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and texted my wife, “Got him!”