It’s funny isn’t it? The many creative and inventive ways God speaks to us are incredible. Sometimes he does so through a sermon; sometimes a song; sometimes through our children and their many questions. Often times, it’s through a mistake.
I had been praying about our hunting trip for a couple of weeks. I wanted to be safe and successful, to be sure. But, the biggest thing on my radar was for God to bind the enemy and keep him from stealing my joy.
I don’t know why, but that was my focus.
I wanted to spend time getting to know God better. I wanted to spend time with him, to know what areas of my life I could improve in and in which areas he was proud of me. It had been a while since I was really intentional about my own spiritual growth. I had left that up to my pastor. It’s his job isn’t it?
Obviously, the answer is no. It is up to me to become more Christ-like. It is not the job of my pastor, my worship leader, my wife or anyone else. It is my job and this trip was to be a kickoff to that adventure.
As my close friend and I settled into our spots on the side of the mountain the morning of opening day, I could sense God’s presence in a way that I had not for some time. The sun had not yet made its appearance above the mountains to my left, but the orange glow of that sunrise and the sweet smell of sage made for a quiet moment of solace. “Thank you, God. This is beautiful.”
“It gets better,” was the reply.
I was excited. A smile crossed my lips as I sat and waited for the hunters below me to push the animals up the mountain and right into my sights.
As I sat, the sun began to peak over the horizon and warm us with its soft morning rays. I began to thank God for all he has done in my life - my family, my friends and the many ways he has blessed me. My mind began to wander. On occasion, I would scan the hillside across from us or the draw below us for movement. But, most of my time was spent communing with God. It was great!
The occasional gunshot from afar would pull me back to the task at hand. They would also push more and more animals over our ridge to the draw below us. I would scan for bones and then drift off with my thoughts.
Another gunshot, another casual scan and then, back to my thoughts.
A small herd of 12 or 13 animals approached from the left while 5 or 6 came over the ridge in front of our position. While the deer milled about, a call on the radio got the adrenaline pumping. “There’s a nice fork in that group of 6!”
As time passed, my friend and I spotted the group. They had made their way to some trees about 500 yards away and seemed to be bedding down for the day. No rush here. These guys aren’t going anywhere. I leaned back, basking in the glow of not only of the warm morning sun, but the even brighter glow of success!
“I got two good shots at that buck,” buzzed the radio. “They’re running up your way.”
Scott grasped the urgency of the situation. “This is gonna happen quick, Brian. Get ready.”
For some reason, my preparation was lackadaisical, at best. Slowly, I rose to my knee and lazily pulled the rifle into my shoulder. The deer bounded up the mountain. Leaping over the tall sage brush and zigzagging their way ever closer, I tried to locate them in my sights.
“Here they come, Brian.”
My shooting stick was too tall, so I rose to a squat.
The deer were within 200 yards. From this squatting position, the low-hanging branches of the tree were in the way and my barrel was unsteady. I had to get situated.
The deer were bounding fast now. They were just a few more steps from the cover of trees. I had to take my shot. The group paused to look behind them. They had no idea I was there.
I couldn’t find them. Up and down I fidgeted.
From a half-squat, I placed my cross-hairs on the fork’s shoulders. The sage was too tall for a vitals shot. The low-hanging branches eliminated the option of standing for a better view. They were on the move again. I had to shoot. The silence of the crisp morning was shattered as my rifle exploded and echoed down the mountainside.
I wasn’t prepared. I had overlooked the little things that ensure a kill shot. As a result, I had to rush and my goal went unrealized.
The beautiful thing, though, was I didn’t feel bad or question God’s promise - It gets better.
I felt him speak immediately. “You weren’t prepared. You didn’t take care of those little things. Your big goal did not come to fruition like you planned.” He wasn’t talking about my missed shot. He was talking about my walk – my spiritual growth. He simply used my situation on that mountain to show me what he wanted me to work on…the little things.
The hunt was over for the day. We meandered down the mountain in hopes of scaring something up, and my conversation with God was unreal. I thanked him for his clear communication. I know what I need to be doing on a daily basis on my journey to being more like Christ.
It was crystal clear, just like that fine morning. Seek him daily. Search for areas of weakness. Be intentional with my communication with God. Encourage others. Have eyes to see where I can minister – every minute of every day. How can I bring others to the kingdom? Being conscious about that is really important. Doing these things will help me achieve my goal of being more Christ-like.
That’s it? I can hear you asking. “I could have told you that,” you say. I know, but for me, those things weren’t on my radar. I had left those things up to others to do for me. Praise God for the way he speaks!
The constant ribbing I received at camp was a tough pill to swallow. I had never missed before (I’ve only been hunting for four years now). It had me thinking perhaps I couldn’t get it done. I began to doubt.
But, God spoke again. “You can do it. Just watch the little things.”
The next morning, I was pumped. I was gonna watch those little things. I would be successful.
We arose before light the next morning to head out for the mountain. I would get a little lower down the mountain. I would set myself up real nice and bag a big one.
Due to some others in our camp, we got a late start. Doubt crept in.
Our party got up the mountain, made plans and split up. Four of us would find different spots and wait for the fifth member to push deer our direction. I finally found a great spot and set up for the kill. It was light already and I worried. The Lord assured me I would be successful if I watch the little things, so I did.
An hour passed - nothing. I scanned religiously. I made sure things were ready. All of a sudden, the hill I was watching came alive with movement, but not with that of the four-legged kind. A couple dudes from our camp didn’t stay where we planned and had wandered right into our area, scaring any game that may have been lurking. The hunt was done by 8:30am. I wasn’t happy.
I tried to stay positive as I hiked down to the meeting point. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my conversation with God. Had I misunderstood? I paid attention to the little things…but, nothing happened.
As I arrived at the truck after an hour and a half of walking and talking, I heard God…”Be persistent.”
We all arrived back at camp in a sour mood. Three of us had been affected by our nomadic friends. It wasn’t even noon and we didn’t know our next plan of attack.
I told the others I was going out behind camp to hunt. I found some tracks and followed them out into the middle of a pumice flat. There was a highway of activity crossing the area. I found a nice little spot and got all the little stuff prepared. After 45 minutes of quiet solitude and no activity, I looked for a different area. Following tracks which showed the heaviest activity, I settled down about 300 yards from my original spot. The time with God was great, but didn’t yield anything I could shoot.
I thanked God for the conversation and headed back to camp. After a walk of about 40 yards, I heard the sound of leather squeaking against leather. I turned to check my pack. I continued to hear the sound, but it was out my other ear.
As I turned to look, the biggest horns I had ever seen began to rise above the ridge about 25 yards away. What followed was too good to be true – the biggest buck I had ever seen. I froze – stunned. It didn’t slow one step. It looked straight at me and continued his hurried gate. I expected him to turn or start or stop…something. When he didn’t, I dropped to my knee and slammed my rifle to my shoulder. The beast was 20 yards away and moving fast. I scoped him quickly, and as he made his way down a shallow gulch I set my crosshairs on the back of his shoulders. As he came up the near side of the dip, his head came back into view and he continued to come closer, his neck exposed itself to my crosshairs.
The rifle bucked against my shoulder.
The animal reared back, pawing at the air as if trying to climb right into heaven. As his pawing slowed, gravity took over and he slammed forward into the ground not 13 yards away from me.
He was truly a gift. He never saw me. He trundled right into my sights. How can I explain it any other way?
It gets better. Be Persistent.
When you actively seek, God speaks.
When his children listen and obey, they are blessed.
Do you have goals you have not seen fulfilled? Are you paying attention to the little things?
What does God want you to focus on? Ask him.
It does get better!
I hope God speaks to you through this adventure of mine.