Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Outdoorsman's Diary: God Does Have a Sense of Humor

Hunting for a prolonged period of time has a way of imparting a mild form of psychosis on hunters. Due to the constant attentiveness that’s required in the pursuit of game animals, we begin to see stumps and logs transform into rabbits, grouse and whitetails if we look hard enough. This psychotic condition worsens as more time is spent not seeing game, since the less we see our game, the more we hallucinate to make up for it. 

For many hunters, the hunt continues into the “real world,” as thoughts of the woods, with its smells and sights, linger through the work week. It's rare, though, to actually exhibit signs of “hunting psychosis" by having hallucinations of game animals throughout our ordinary days--we are generally fully recovered from a weekend hunt by the time we make it to work on Monday.

Even so, I thought I had an unfortunate episode of hallucinations last fall, when, on a Monday morning after a weekend hunt, I saw a ruffed grouse dozing on the pavement of a city street in the middle of the night--and no, it wasn’t dead. 

Anyone who knows anything about grouse know these birds will never sleep on the ground, let alone on a city street in a town with a population over 12,000 people. It just doesn’t happen; they normally roost in evergreens at night, due to the protection of their dense foliage.

Is this nighttime sighting of the grouse a sign of psychosis? Well, most would assume so, but I’m telling the truth! I saw it! As with all those “big fish stories,” I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle as I proclaim the veracity of this story. 

What’s truly remarkable about this grouse story, however, was not where it happened to be roosting. Nor was it the fact that I had just returned home from a three-day hunt. 

No, the most profound part of this ordeal was that only 30 seconds before I saw the bird, I had this thought: “Man, I wish I would’ve seen more grouse on that hunt.”
Immediately after I thought this, I turned the corner and saw a pile of leaves that looked “funny.” I slowed down and stopped close to it, shining it with my headlights. I saw the shape of a ruffed grouse laying in front of the leaf pile, and as I squinted to look harder, its head popped up and eyed me rudely (after all, I did wake it up).
I got out of my car and walked right up to it, and it didn’t fly away. I wasn’t sure if it was injured, so I nudged it with my boot to see if it would fly away--but it didn’t. I saw movement down the sidewalk a few yards from me, and when I looked towards it, I saw a cat creeping towards me (or the grouse, rather). This feline would have surely tackled the grouse and had an early breakfast if I hadn’t shown up. 

I nudged the grouse again and it flew into a nearby house, flapping like mad against the siding, before falling to the ground. I ran up to it and nudged it again, but this time it flew away to unknown lands, presumably to live at peace--far away from cats, headlights and boots. 

Or...perhaps, he flew into hunting lands, where he would soon meet his demise... 

Regardless of what happened to that grouse thereafter, I found myself laughing after it left. Here I was, delivering papers on my early morning route on the first day after a weekend of grouse hunting, and a grouse was plopped down where it shouldn’t be. I had just been thinking of grouse hunting, and this specimen presented itself in such a way that I couldn’t legally shoot it (on an average hunting day, this grouse would've already been dead and in the bag).

I knew then that God has a sense of humor. This confirmed my long-held suspicion that God loves to surprise us with quiet forms of goodness. What gets me the most is how all the elements worked out in this story, seemingly for the sole purpose of my amusement. 

With all the tumults in the world, sometimes its good to remember the subtle surprises of God. If the God of the universe truly cares enough to poke us with tidbits of goodness from time to time, how much more will he handle the courses of this world? 

Perhaps that was the real lesson of the grouse: we can find peace with God and “roost” in circumstances filled with imminent danger. It reminds me of what David said: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows...Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psa. 23:5a, 6). This grouse seemed to be at peace with the obvious danger of the city street and the roaming felines. 

Of course, the bird was too dumb to actually possess such spiritual maturity, but that doesn’t mean it can’t teach us something about what it means to trust God in the midst of evil environments. Regarding these evil circumstances, the Apostle Paul says, “we rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3) because it produces “hope” in us. This hope allows us to trust God as we undergo the tumults of life. As we abide in the “city streets” of evil, with dangers looming around us, we can rest in hope, knowing there’s more to life than meets the eye.

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