After decades of hunting, I've always been bewildered by how I seldom can find a knife that consistently works to my liking. I've used many types and most of them are quality products. However, there always comes a point when I'm stuck in the hunting woods with a dull blade - and no sharpener. This speaks to one of the other things that astound me regarding my hunting; lack of preparation. Oh, I do a lot of things to prepare for deer season such as bow practice, trail camera recon, field work and even organizing my gear, just to name a few. Ask my wife and she'll promptly tell you just how much time I spend preparing for hunting. However, things sometimes fall through the cracks. As serious as I can be, perhaps I get complacent with some of the necessary preparation.
If you skin a lot of animals, you know that it's not difficult to compromise the sharp edge of a blade. If you skin hogs, you truly know just how dull your knife can become - and it's quite a chore. Aside from the horrendous smell, they have very coarse hair, tough skin, fat, and gristle. Luckily, the average outdoorsman maintains thoughts of pork tenderloin and ribs to carry them through the unpleasant task. However, even the sharpest of knives often result in intermittent pauses for sharpening.
I've always wondered why my granddad sometimes took time to sharpen and oil his tools despite their inherent rusty and dull look. I chalked it up to the common notion that many people from an older generation appreciated their tools and took more pride in maintaining them. I know there is truth to this, but I think that there is more at play.
So how are the hunting knife outdoor success and our faith related? Well, in my mind it has everything to do with the fact that like with knives, we often lose our spiritual edge and become much less useful in our relationship with God. Further, we become a much lesser promoter for Him and what He offers us. I know many outdoorsmen who love skinning the animals they harvest. I've got to say, that I'm not usually one of them. Oh, I understand its role in the whole process, but after years of harvesting deer, the gratification is not what it used to be. Nonetheless, it becomes even more laborious when I've failed to maintain my blades in my pack - my edge. Often, I've failed to prepare and grow discontented in the dressing process; it feels like drudgery.
Spiritual weariness seems to come not only from not serving God but seeking to handle things on our own. From my experience, this makes the work is so much harder - much like butchering or dressing a deer with an inadequate blade. We're having to unnecessarily use more strength for the task. More lack of preparation. Simply put, we're taking it on alone and it's no wonder that eventually we get tired.
As humans, it's easy to get into a rut and practice our faith through non-heartfelt prayer, devotions, and worship. In these cases, we have become spiritually dull and our acts of faith turn into monotonous chores. There is always evidence that we are not spiritually sharp; small things become large ones, despite having a big God in our corner, negativity and irreverent attitudes start to prevail, and we, in general, seek to operate as if we're in control. The Big me, little God syndrome.
I find that the only real way I can maintain my edge is to be resolute in spending real time with God in prayer. Thank Him for your blessings and voice your concerns and fears. Ironically, there is no better place to spend authentic time with Him than when in the outdoors. What is true for the hunter and the tools in his hunting pack also applies to the Christian's life. Proverbs 27:17 in part explains that “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” We can likewise employ similar wisdom on our own. "If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success" (Ecclesiastes 10:10). So, take the time to improve your hunting edge, but more importantly consider honing your spiritual blade as well. When doing so, we improve our quality of life and of those around us - family, co-workers and hunting buddies alike.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His content is largely about hunting strategies and the outdoor lifestyle – often from a Christian perspective. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.