The Real Thing

Bird Hunting

My first experience bird hunting was two years ago at a gold mine that we have in Alaska.  We would go out some evenings, when dusk was starting to settle in, and drive around the property on our ATVs to hunt for Ptarmigan. If we came across any birds, we would flush them and usually get 2 or 3 birds for the evening.  We took them back to the camp, cleaned the birds ourselves, and then put them in the refrigerator so that we could cook the meat later in the week.

My second experience was entirely different. I was invited to go pheasant hunting with some friends at a large ranch in South Texas.  I consider myself to be a novice when it comes to hunting, but I was eager to learn, so I quickly agreed to the trip.

When we pulled into the entrance of the property, we saw what we had come for.  A tall, beautiful pheasant emerged on the road in front of us. He stood upright, with his feathers glistening in the afternoon sunlight, and stared us down as our truck approached.  We slowed down and admired him for a moment before he darted across the road and ran into the brush beside the stream.

The ranch was spread across a beautiful 1400 acres, and was commercially geared for bird hunting.  The staff took care of every detail and all we had to do was show up to have a great hunt. The clubhouse was stocked with anything that you could ever want or need at your fingertips.  Even if you were a novice hunter like myself, you could come here and purchase a hunting experience that would certainly be memorable.

As I talked with one of the other guys who had hunted here before, I learned that the birds we would be hunting were raised here locally, and that they were released onto the ranch depending on how many hunters had scheduled to come for the day.  This ensured there were always birds around, and you were certain to have a good hunt. I went to sleep early that night, looking forward to the next morning and what the ensuing hunt would bring.

After we finished breakfast the next morning, we grabbed our shotguns and unloaded the dogs.  The hunt was on. Before we had walked twenty yards away from the truck, a huge covey of quail burst out of the brush. About thirty quail were darting all around us.  We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon in great condition. We ended up shooting more birds than I expected to see on the entire hunt. The final count: ninety five quail, twenty three chukar, and nineteen pheasant.  

After the hunt was over, I thought more about the experience.  It had been fun, and I was grateful for the opportunity and the freezer full of meat, but something else was bothering me that was hard to pinpoint. It seemed as if I didn’t leave the hunt very satisfied, not because of the amount of birds that we got to hunt, but because it almost seemed too easy.  The experience ultimately was one that was easily accessible and that I could purchase at will, and therefore seemed cheapened in a way.

No “Quick Fix”

The spiritual parallel was evident after the trip. I often think that I know what is best for me and how God should serve my needs. A quick fix – I want my perceived needs to be met according to my schedule. I want to go to a church service, or spend a few minutes praying. Then I want God to solve all my problems immediately. I want the quail placed where I don’t have to try to find them because I don’t want to put in the effort. I’m afraid that the hunt might end in a way I didn’t expect or want it to.  Often, I want an easy road to spiritual “success”.

While prayer and spiritual community are both very good and valuable things, God is always interested in the deeper things of my heart.  His desire is to get down to the bottom of my soul and bring healing to the areas that need it. There often isn’t a “quick fix” for this.  It takes time with Him and it requires risk. It is highly valuable if we are willing to journey with God, grow in relationship with Him, and learn how to trust Him in deeper ways.

Risky: How It Should Be

Looking back, getting two or three birds in Alaska was much more valuable to me than getting over one hundred birds on a game ranch two years later.  The Alaska hunt was real. It wasn’t staged or presented to me, and it wasn’t something that I could go purchase at my convenience.  It was part of an incredible adventure that God gave me of purchasing and operating a gold mine in the remote Alaskan wilderness. This journey had been full of hope and excitement at times, and also filled with its share of disappointments.  But it was real and God led me faithfully through the journey.   

I want more of those experiences: the real ones where there may be serious risk involved. Even in the midst of the unknown, I know that I am fully alive and engaged in this life God has blessed me with.  I am asking God to teach me how to trust and follow Him in deeper ways. Those ways may not be easy, but that bring true life to my soul.

Are you willing to ask God for the same thing?  Are you willing to follow God on a journey that is led by faith and not by sight alone?   This is the risky spiritual road that Jesus taught about. It may seem dangerous to us, but this is where God puts all of the good fruit and the deeper things of Him. Those are so much more valuable than what I can create out of my own efforts in this world.

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