From November 2015…God is in control of all things. I was reminded of this on Friday morning. I was off from work to go deer hunting. I was about to go out the door for the morning hunt when my kids got into a heated argument. I decided now was not the time to leave and spent the next several minutes talking with them. By the time I got out the door the nighttime darkness was just starting to leave. To say I was upset is an understatement. Any good hunter knows you want to already be in your spot and settled when it starts getting light outside. Truth is this is how my hunting season had gone ever since it started. I had just had a conversation with my wife earlier in the week about my misfortunes. I told her, “I don’t know what God’s purpose is but my hunting season has just been awful.” Never in my life had I experienced what I was experiencing. Every time I entered the woods I would see deer run off and I would see no more. It happened every time over and over again.
As I walked out the door and headed into the woods on that cold, calm morning I prayed to God about it. I asked for Him to help me. Just seconds after I entered the woods I saw a flash of movement in front of me about 50 yards or so. As I had feared, the deer were already moving around because of my late arrival in the woods. Here we go again, I thought. Little did I know, God had very different plans for me on this day.
When I saw the deer ahead, I stopped and stood motionless on the path leading through the woods. The path is large and wide…about 8 feet or so across. I was hoping the deer would quietly leave without causing a lot of noise like they had done so many times before. I stood motionless for a minute or so before I started to hear the deer coming towards me. I squinted through the darkness to see fuzzy shapes coming my way. After three or four minutes the noises just stopped. I could no longer see the deer in the darkness as I strained my eyes as hard as I could. As precious time was wasting, my patience was running out. Thinking the deer may have slipped away without me knowing it, I slowly began to walk towards my deer stand, the same direction I had heard them coming. I hadn’t taken two steps when the deer that weren’t more than 10 yards from me, jumped up and ran. After only running a short distance, the deer stopped. I continued standing there motionless trying to decide my next move when I again began hearing footsteps. I thought they were leaving but to my surprise the footsteps continued to get closer and closer, only this time they were approaching on my left.
After a couple minutes I was clearly able to make out the shape of one of the deer. It couldn’t have been more than 15 yards away eating from the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had no idea why it wasn’t running away but I wasted no time in getting ready for a shot. I pulled back my bow, steadied my aim, and released. I could tell by the noise my arrow made that I had missed. The deer was startled and ran back 20 yards or so in the direction it had come from and just stood there. I couldn’t believe it was not leaving. The deer was now 30 or 40yards from me and I continued to stand on the open path in the woods. How could this deer not see me? Why was it not running away?
Moments later I heard movement again. The deer was coming back. It once more worked its way around to my left side and stopped 15 yards from me. I resisted the shot this time because of some tree branches that were in the way. I didn’t want to risk hitting one so I waited. After 5 minutes or so both deer crossed over the ravine to my left and disappeared out of sight. I finally had the chance to walk to my stand without the deer seeing me…so I thought.
I walked slowly and as quietly as I could through the dry leaves. I made it about 50 yards or so when I began to hear noises coming from the direction the deer had went. I looked through the ever increasing light to see these same two deer running towards me like dogs running to their owner. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I took a few more steps and stopped. I looked again and now they were 30 yards or so from me and they were looking directly at me. I sidestepped to my right and stood behind a tree trying to slow my speeding heart. The deer continued to get closer and began to eat 15 yards or so in front of me in the woods. Why did they travel over 100 yards to stand directly in front of me at 15 yards again? Why did they seem to be drawn to the sounds of my feet? I tried to find an opening through the tree limbs, pulled back anther arrow, and released. I knew for sure I had missed again when I heard a funning noise after I had shot. The arrow had once more deflected off a limb and was sticking in the ground pointing straight up. That was definitely a first.
After the deer finished eating it decided to do the unthinkable, it was going to walk onto the trail I was standing on to give me a shot without anything between me and her. There were no tree limbs and no trees to get in the way as it walked out directly in front of me at; you guessed it, 15 yards. The shot was such a slam dunk and I was so shocked with all that had happened, I missed. My stomach sank as I stood in disbelief as the deer ran 20 yards or so to my left and just stood there. My spirit was crushed. How did I just miss that shot? Why is this deer behaving like it has a death wish? So many thoughts were going through my mind. I was a mess. I did all that I knew to do. I prayed. I told God that if He could just bring that deer back one more time I could make a good shot.
Soon after the deer walked down the hill and out of sight I walked back to retrieve my arrow. I walked the 50 yards or so down the wide open trail to retrieve my arrow. When I found it, just as I expected there was no trace of a hit. I had missed the deer cleanly. I placed the arrow into the quiver and pulled out another arrow and placed it on the bow string. Was I really expecting the deer to come back again? At this point my faith was sky high. I knew anything was possible.
I hadn’t been standing there 2 minutes when I began to hear noise from the direction the two deer had just gone. A moment later, coming over the top of the hill immerged one of the deer. As soon as I saw it, it looked directly at me. I couldn’t get a shot but no worries, the deer would get into a good shooting position for me. The deer then circled around so she could again step out onto the same trail I was standing. Before she stepped out into the opening, she looked at me yet again. This moment that only lasted for a brief second, is burned into my mind. In that moment I saw God. I saw the gift that He was giving me and I felt a love in the deepest parts of me.
I pulled back my arrow, the deer stepped onto the open trail at 15 yards, and I released. The deer dropped to the ground and shortly thereafter, I dropped to my knees. I looked up to heaven, and with tears rolling down my cheeks, I thanked God for His amazing love. In that moment, all the frustration of the hunting season vanished. God had allowed pain in my life because He had something better in store for me.
Upon receiving the deer meat back from the butcher I took some to this individual. I could not have been more amazed at their response. I saw a gentleness and gratitude from this person that I had never seen before. My heart had changed. Their heart had changed. Now two years later, we no longer have a wall that separates us. The feelings of anger and bitterness are gone.
God often sends us trials and struggles to change us. Sometimes at the time these painful struggles don’t make sense. And sometimes when they do make sense, we are seeing only a glimpse of the full picture. If you love God you will experience trials. When you experience trials, you can be sure God allowed them to change you for the better and we can be confident that someone else is being changed too.