From deer stands and duck blinds across America, many of us head to the wilderness. For me, it’s not about the pursuit of game, but the possibility of meeting with God. The first place God met man was in the woods. It says a lot about nature. His nature. Our nature.
The woods are His cathedral – more beautiful than man could ever build. If I had all the money in the world and every human offered to help, in a lifetime I couldn't make an ocean. We couldn’t create the Rockies. We cannot paint the forest with the colors of fall.
"It has never been about the hunt. It is always about meeting Him in the woods. In that space, I am small, I am quiet, I am still – three things any man should be before a King.
The recognition of that beauty becomes worship. I can see the large open field that lays to my left and the sloped ridge of oak stands to my right. I watch the leaves dance and spin as they rush to bless the tree for a second time – once in life when green, and now in death.
At 4:30 in the afternoon the turkey move down the ridge. For years, I’ve watched their movement. I hear the shuffle of feet as the unit of toms move deliberately through the fallen Oak leaves. They search for acorns among the carpet hues of orange Oak leaves and yellow Hickory. The long shadows of the Oaks chase them east, down the ridge into the fading light that lingers in the open grass. Still golden in the field, dusk has not yet caused the day to become any less vibrant. As they transfer their unit through the woods in single file, they open up to an oval as they enter the filed. Form following function, they eat and they protect. The toms circle as they move. Among these soldiers, one will always be on sentinel, while the others eat. They switch sentinels seamlessly. How do they know who’s turn it is to stand guard, who's turn it is to eat? They guard against the eagle, the bobcat and the coyote. For years there have been six, on this day, there are five. They have tightened their circle to take the place of a brother lost. I watch as they move off into the fading light, only to form a line and enter the woods. At 5:15 I will hear the thunder of their feathers as they beat against the evening air to gather in the Sycamore and the Oak. They will cluck their good nights and they will quietly sense the fading light of fall and know the chill of winter will soon set in. I’m reminded of Psalms 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
It has never been about the hunt. It is always about meeting Him in the woods. In that space, I am small. I am quiet. I am still – three things any man should be before a King.
In those spaces I’ve found myself overwhelmed by gratitude.
Jesus went to the wilderness to prepare.
God sent his people to the wilderness to deal with their mess.
Elijah retreated to the wilderness when he was overwhelmed.
Moses headed to the mountain when he wanted to meet God.
The wilderness is what shaped David to defeat Goliath.
The wilderness is where Jesus chose to meet his disciples after they failed.
The wilderness is where Abram learned his most valuable lesson, that God would supply a sacrifice.
The wilderness is where a man harvested the minerals that would become iron. Those very minerals would be shaped into nails that would pierce the hands and feet of His Son.
The wilderness is where God planted a beautiful tree. The same tree that would one day be harvested and crafted into a beam. A beam that would one day hold his son. I wonder how many times the Father looked at that tree as it grew.
In the wilderness, on a mountain that God himself would form, they took the life of Jesus so He could be a ransom for us.
We can learn a lot about ourselves and we can learn a lot about Kingdom work in that space. If God trained people like David, Moses and Abraham in that setting, there’s got to be lot we can learn.
So wherever your walk in the woods takes you, go on purpose. Go with purpose. Ride, hike, hunt, fish, golf with purpose. In those wide open spaces, He is waiting to meet you and prepare you for Kingdom work. Look, listen and lean in. You are in the sanctuary of the Creator and He has something to say.
Jayson French is the executive vice president of Christ In Youth.