For a child there is something magical about the allure of a mud hole. Most kids could spend all day throwing small stones and making big splashes. As they grow older though, it’s not the water that attracts them, it’s the tracks. Paw prints, hoof prints, and boot prints all tell a tale. Every story is a mix of mystery and adventure, discovery and possibility. Those aren’t simple dog or cat tracks they are the prints of the monsters of our dreams, both the trophy variety and the kind that make Mom and Dad come and check the closet. No one can convince a child that the monsters aren’t really there, the prints are all the proof they need to believe.
Like many county kids, as I grew older, I learned the time honored skills that every hunter needs to bring their quarry home. Among those skills was the ability to read animal tracks, which taught me quite a bit about my prey. I have since forgotten much of that information, but there was a time when when careful observation not only told me what kind of animal had walked by, but also helped me to understand the way the beast lived. As a teen I could tell you where the turkey and deer on our farm were at just about any time of the day, which was especially helpful when hunting season rolled around.
It will sound crazy to anyone who doesn’t understand, but such a knowledge of the wildlife, and the world they live in, leads to a profound intimacy with the woods. That closeness to nature requires more than simply believing that it exists, you have to engage with it. To take things further, if you want to actually see your quarry, you have to learn how to follow it’s tracks, read it’s sign, and listen to it’s call. The goal of all of that isn’t to simply find where the animal has been, it is to use that knowledge to place yourself in position to intercept them as they amble through the forrest.
Of course, anyone might luck out and accidentally scare something up, but those moments are explosive and fleeting. In those times you may experience the power and speed of nature, but that pales in comparison to inhaling in the grace that comes from a close encounter.
A true hunter looks for the deeper experience. The smell of fresh earth turned underfoot and the sound of the forrest as it wakes with the sun may seem a trifle to some, but to those who truly love intimacy with the wild, they breathe life into the soul.
The call to follow Christ has many similarities. There are those who are content to enjoy the splish and splash of the mud puddle. Others who are fascinated, and terrified, by the sign that points them to the trail, and those who leave those things behind to immerse themselves the pursuit of the ultimate prize. Yes it is as simple as believing, but there is so much more!
Jesus asks us to believe in him but he calls us to follow him much more often. Belief is easy and requires very little of me, but following commands that I actually know how to be in a relationship.
Believing in Christ is the first step, but learning to follow his sign and to discern his call is what places us in that ultimate position we all long for. The deeper life is available to all who choose to heed the call. There is nothing wrong with the joy of making splashes in the mud hole, but it is only the beginning of much greater discoveries as we mature through life. My prayer is that the pursuit will always stay exhilarating, and that we all might find our quarry as we journey deeper down the path.
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