“Dear Jesus, please help my daddy find a fresh road kill.”
It caught me completely off guard as my 6 year-old son offered this prayer from the back seat as we prayed through our daily prayer. While it wasn’t completely out of context, it hadn’t dawned on me how much I must’ve been putting words to the desire.
I grew up in the suburbs out east, playing golf and wearing argyle socks (with matching sweaters). God baptized me with wilderness when He led me west after college. The mountains were, and have been, the geography of my initiation and validation as a man.
John and I took up hunting over a decade ago and learned everything from square one: asking questions, logging miles and failing over and over and over again. One day, well into a hunt, with more miles than we could count on our boots and deep in the wilderness, John stopped, turned to me and said:
“What?” was my only response. What the hell could a typewriter have to do with this moment?
John elaborated: “We might as well be carrying a typewriter through these woods!”
I busted out laughing, ruining the 1% chance we had of actually seeing an elk. His comment uncorked the absurdity of it all as I realized what a huge advantage these wild and majestic creatures had over us neophyte-suburgatory guys in the woods. After that conversation, John christened our hunting with a new name: “Armed Hiking.”
We learned to not take this newfound pursuit so seriously, finding ourselves at the base of a learning curve as steep and towering as Denali.
What was I to do with the intensity of my desire to have meat in the freezer? I dreamed about harvesting my own animal – packing it out, preparing it into steaks, jerky, brats and feeding my family from my own sweat and strength. Yet the further we waded into the challenge of backcountry bowhunting, the dimmer the likelihood of actually or imminently harvesting an animal became.
Then one day it hit me: road kill. At first it seemed barbaric; and a bit irrational.
But deep in the recesses of my heart lived the anecdote a hunting friend and old timer who shared about the roadkill pack he kept in the back of his suburban – tarps, ropes and knives, ever-ready should an opportunity present itself.
And I got to thinking… I spend days upon days chasing these majestic animals only to return to suburbia and watch monster bucks with a mouthful of petunias from Mrs. Clayton’s flowerbed mosey down my street. It’s absurd really.
So when some minivan lays down yet another beautiful creature because the driver was on her cell phone during carpool just at the moment when a deer lumbers across main street to munch from another flower pot, could it be that God, the Father, is setting up an opportunity of Kingdom proportions for me and the freezer He loves?
I guess my kids picked up on it. Aware of how much I wanted a “wild” animal and the chance to put my own blade to it, my son decided to pray for “road kill for daddy” during our morning prayers.
It all happened the day after Thanksgiving as we headed north to cut down the family Christmas tree. The old truck was filled with budding traditions – hot chocolate in a thermos, easy cheese and clubhouse crackers wedged between the seats, and we were rolling along to a country rendition of “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” And, NOT TWENTY SECONDS after Joshua prayed, asking God once again for a roadkill, we rounded the corner of Ute Valley Park and saw a buck on the side of the road with parts of some lady’s SUV scattered across Vindicator Blvd. Instinctively, I made an illegal U-turn, pulled over at the nearest side street, and raced to the scene with kids and wife on my heels.
The buck was just expiring, the lady was a mess. And Jesus was there. Pursuing my heart, His son, in the most personal and glorious way; I feel exposed even writing this and inviting you in.
“Ma’am, it’s okay. I’m sorry for your accident. I’m glad you are okay. And ma’am, this buck is in good hands. I’m a volunteer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (which is true) and I would be glad to help take care of this animal for you.” She was relieved and I might as well have been doing the moonwalk, four feet off the ground.
Plans changed. My gracious wife just smiled and shook her head, and my little kids and I heaved this buck into the back of the old truck. Minutes later it was hanging in the garage, and we had set sail on an adventure that would shape our family culture for the rest of our lives.
I can remember the moment like it was yesterday, but it’s been years now and the first encounter has become a lifestyle. Since then, we have dove deep into learning together the joys of making our own burgers and brats with the kids.
And more times than I can recall, I’ve hauled steaks across country on airplanes to deliver joy bombs to friends and family afar who have yet to cultivate the array of wild meats we have procured. The joy was indescribable for me to watch my father enjoy savory steaks harvested from arrow and bumper… few things could bring such delight. The pic below was captured over wild game delights as our family gathered to celebrate the one year anniversary of my younger brother Crossing Over the great divide and going Home…
Love languages…oh, how He knows us, even better than we know ourselves. The language between lovers is intimate and utterly personal. It is hidden, protected, cultivated, delighted in. It is central to how lovers communicate. It unites our hearts, creates oneness and becomes this unseen fuel for the journey…
Love is pursuing me.
It’s the only way I can explain the sheer goodness and the intimacy that finds me in the midst of battle; we are being pursued by love.
In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff captures the pursuit of God this way:
“I wonder if God returned over and over to this world He placed us in thinking what He had created was good, but it could be even better, even grander. I wonder if He thought each foggy morning, each soft rain, each field of wildflowers would be a quiet and audacious way to demonstrate His tremendous love.”
In his first letter, John the apostle says “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Love begets love.
Pursuit begets pursuit.
Our hearts finally can rest when we come home to knowing that today He is pursuing us, coming after us, moving toward us in an utterly unique and intimate way. In our love language.
Mine is roadkill.
And it goes beyond that… tumbleweeds freely rolling in the wind affirming the existence of open spaces yet to be tamed; broken sprinklers as delightful fountains protesting the “well groomed” suburban life; antler sheds found on remote south facing slopes telling tales of giant animals that still roam free; firelight dancing with warmth and a glow; water cascading on mountain streams creating pockets and seams for wild, heroic brookies; the touch of my daughter’s skin; watching Cherie’s body move as she leads others in a yoga class; the view of endless mountain ranges from a talus slope high above timberline…
How about for you?
He is the Hound of Heaven, as Francis Thompson brilliantly wrote of in the late 1800s and whose poem Tozier brought back to light in our day. Ever chasing. Ever pursuing us…
If you recall in The Sacred Romance, John and Brent quote Simon Tugwell’s powerful conclusion about the impact of knowing that it is God who pursues us:
So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way around. He is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God: far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against him. And he knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms. So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us the hope of salvation. Our hope is in his determination to save us, and he will not give in.
Your language of pursuit might not be roadkill. But it’d be good to dig deep in your heart, wonder what it is, believe that He wants to cultivate it and look for Him to come and come and come again in this intimate way. There He can meet you, and me, in the midst of so many unanswered questions and whisper affectionately,
“I love you.”