Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Outdoorsman's Diary: Lessons Learned

I have found that one of the most powerful avenues to God is associating oneself with the natural world. Whether its experiencing the call of the hunter, fishing on a glassy lake, taking an observant hike or sitting on a park bench, the natural impulse is to throw up my arms in defeat. How can one compete with such grandeur? The flora and fauna of the world show us that God's creation is far greater than ourselves and our problems--if we only have the eyes to see it. It’s wise to take heed of it’s magnitude and contemplate our place in it.

The woods becomes a wise mentor as it sifts through my soul. Autumn strolls in, and the sights and smells awaken the deep call to test my wits against wild game; the mentor invites me for another session. It’s hard to ignore the alluring grit of the woods, and it is this grit that wicks selfishness out.

There are valuable moral lessons to be learned from the sport of hunting. When determined to harvest the desired game, a hunter learns to wait...and wait after waiting. The patience required for hunting is fundamental, and it is one of the greatest lessons learned from the deer stand or blind. It requires a delicate disposition that is determined to do what it takes at the cost of personal comfort. It forces us to concentrate on our goal, and patience is the fuel needed to reach it.

Speaking of goals, another valuable lesson in hunting is the fulfillment of reaching a goal. The hordes of hostile elements batter against a hunter’s resolve, ensuring that the harvest of an animal doesn't leave us unfulfilled. The more difficult the hunt, the more rewarding the capture.

Sometimes, though, we fail. I know what it is like to miss a trophy whitetail and let it escape. The natural tendency is to loathe oneself and wallow in regret. The memories of our failures often stick better than our successes. What needs to be remembered, though, is that we are finite creatures; we cannot succeed 100% of the time. If we are to get anywhere in life, failures are required. Indeed, mistakes often become the best teachers.

We, as humans, tend to compartmentalize our lives and live as fractured selves. The same is true for hunters; the many lessons learned in the woods often fail to translate into society. We must work with God's Spirit, the True Mentor, to be congruent in both worlds.

The natural world holds many treasures. God covertly hides little lessons in the trees, birds, insects and mammals for us to unpack and learn. These lessons learned along the riverbeds, lakes and fields all point us to a world greater than ourselves. Will we heed their instruction?

Wherever we connect with God, it is crucial that we translate the fruits of that connection into societal life. I believe that the more we can translate the lessons learned in our places of worship to society, the more we can conversely bring lessons from society to our places of worship. We were made to be congruent in all spheres; we cannot live happily if we're fractured. 

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