This past Sunday – September 1 – dove season opened here in Tennessee. It was a perfect day for a hunt. Both of my sons were with me, and we had the privilege of sharing the hunt with many good friends and two good dogs. Even more, we were able to sit in the shade of a hackberry tree, which is, by the way, about the only thing those particular trees are good for.
I’m not a bird hunter. I’d rather spend my time in a deer stand, or sitting against a tree with a turkey call. But, dove hunting provides that time when hunters can get out their guns and shoot, knowing that all the hunting seasons, especially deer, are right around the corner. It’s also as much a social event as it hunting. Yes, we want to kill – uh, harvest – birds, and I’ve taught my sons that what we harvest, we eat, but dove hunting has a social aspect built into it. There’s talk of football, church, and pennant races, and you always meet someone new that you end up having some sort of thing in common with.
In our particular hunt, a field had been planted with sunflowers some time ago and, as summer fades, so too have the sunflowers. It doesn’t take long for the birds to discover this feast-in-waiting, and apparently, word travels fast. The best places to hunt the doves as they fly into the field are around the edges, with an occasional hunter or two in the center of the field. If a bird comes by you, you’ll get one shot, maybe two, before the next hunter has his chance.
This Sunday, the birds came in droves. There were two, then four, then three, then six. At times, groups of birds flew into the field that made it difficult to choose a bird to aim at. And, they came from all directions. If the birds had been shooting back, I’m not sure we’d have fared well.
I had a blast…literally. Watching my sons shoot and spending time with them was a blessing I’ll never forget. And, watching two dogs – one old and one, a pup – work to retrieve birds (a desire they were born with), was amazing. Even more, enjoying the hospitality of a good friend who enjoys hunting and sharing his blessings with the many that were there was a model of charity.
In these times, I always return to the Reverend Maclean in A River Runs Through It, when he says, “The Lord has blessed us all today…it’s just that He has been particularly good to me.” And, in the same way that Rev. Maclean finds a spiritual lesson in flyfishing to pass on to his sons, there are five things I can draw from the dove hunt this past Sunday.
1. Sin leads to destruction. At one point in our hunt, I watched a pair of birds fly into the field. One bird was shot, and the other began its escape from the field. At first, it appeared that the bird would fly off into the horizon, but it made its slow turn to return to the field. We watched, knowing the bird had escaped its first pass but upon returning would not be so lucky. And, it wasn’t.
In our lives, sin is like that. We can be so enamored by sin that it leads to our destruction. Sometimes we meet its consequences immediately, and often times, when we return to that sin again and again – be it alcohol, pornography, an inappropriate relationship, and so on – our actions will meet dire consequences and the certain destruction of part of our lives.
2. Satan can and will attack us from all directions. Many times this past Sunday, birds would fly into the field just like they had for weeks, unaware of the potential danger. And, when the barrage of gunfire opened up, it continued no matter the route or effort to escape. It came from every direction.
Satan will attack us in the same way. In 1 Peter 5:8, we read that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As we live to bring glory to God, Satan will attack consistently and in every area of our life. We must always be on guard with our eyes and hearts focused on God.
3. There is value in wisdom. There were two dogs there Sunday, both yellow Labradors. “Ice” was a 10 year-old male whose desire to retrieve was hindered only by his physical ailments. He was an old dog who had hunted often, and his body bore the signs. Yet, “Ice” sat motionless as the guns exploded, and he watched intently as birds fell into the sunflowers. When his name was called – and only when his name was called – did he bolt to retrieve. Very methodically, “Ice” went into the tall grass and used his nose to find the bird, return it to us, and then return to position for the next opportunity. He was the model of discipline, character, and efficiency.
“Lexie” was an 18 month-old female who was learning to hunt, a dog who had as much energy as a nuclear power plant. She had the “want to” of 10 dogs, but she just hadn’t yet harnessed the “how” and “when” part. She did retrieve birds, but it was after a look here and a look there. And, when she was made to focus on a straight line to a fallen bird, she was perfect.
The book of Proverbs tells us much about wisdom. In essence, “the fear of the Lord brings is the beginning of wisdom” and for him who “has understanding”, wisdom is found. I can’t help but think that wisdom comes with experience, too, for Proverbs says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”
4. Be single-minded. In our pursuit of sanctification, we must focus our hearts and minds on knowing God – his word to us in Scripture, his sovereign plan for us and this world. We can’t follow God rightly if we’re distracted by other things, or if we are only partly committed.
On Sunday, when a large group of birds flew into the field, my son commented that there were so many birds he had a hard time focusing on one. The solution was to see one bird on focus only on it, in spite of the many others that were flying with it.
5. There is a blessing in friends and family. There were times Sunday when birds didn’t fly. For whatever reason, it was calm. Yet, in those times, there were stories, some light-hearted ribbing, and some catching up on the whereabouts of a son or daughter, mom or dad. It was good to visit with folks we hadn’t seen in a while, hear stories of other hunts, debate the necessity of wood bats over metal, or just talk about the weather. And, as I sat in my chair and watched my sons, I knew that above all things, the Lord had been good to me.
To God alone be the glory!