He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
I’m not sure when it started but I do know when it ended. It was probably just part of growing up boy and part of growing up country, but the bottom line is looking back I wish it wasn’t part of my boyhood. Somewhere along my growing journey, probably when I was six or seven, I had access to a BB gun. Then, just a little later I had my own. I’m sure I would pluck cans and shoot at paper targets. While my Daddy wasn’t a big hunter, we did shoot our share of squirrels and rabbits and that might have been where it started.
One day, and I don’t remember the day, I grew tired of plucking cans and decided to go “bird hunting.” Our yard had three large oak trees and several large cedar trees so there were plenty of birds around. It’s funny but I never thought about shooting something as innocent as a bird but one day I did. I don’t remember the first time, but I do remember the many times. I would walk quietly around my yard, listening for the chirp of a bird, look through the leaves and branches and find my target. I would aim, I would pull the trigger and too often the bird would fall.
I can still remember going over and picking up the now lifeless bird and walking across the road to dispose of the body by tossing it into the woods that stood there. I want you to know as I write this it still causes me grief…not because I shot a bird but because I senselessly took the life of a living thing. Sometimes I would feel a bit of remorse, but it only lasted until the next time I felt the need to stalk and hunt again. And it wasn’t just birds. We had a healthy herd of toads around our house too and occasionally they too would fall victim to my deadly aim. But it wasn’t so much the toads…it was the birds.
This went on for quite a while. The boredom, the stalking and the shooting followed by temporary remorse…until the next time. Then it happened and I can remember it to this day. We had a cedar tree on one of the corners of our house. It was large and went all the way to the ground. As I approached the tree and peered into and under the tree there on the ground, happily hunting bugs, was a brown thrasher. It was larger than a sparrow, so the thrill of the hunt was intensified. I saw him but he never saw me. I took aim and in a moment of time he was on his side in the dirt. But this time…it was different.
The BB had not instantly killed him…rather he lay on the ground…mortally wounded and still breathing. It was only for about thirty seconds, but it was almost like we locked eyes and I watched as he died and…that was it. As far as I know I never shot another bird. As I watched his life ebb away, I saw this little hobby as what it was…senseless fun at the expense of another’s life. Yes, I can still see that brown thrasher and it still causes me grief.
What was different that day was that I saw the grim reality of my actions…a reality so harsh it caused me to stop. It.Caused.Me.To.Stop. The truth is in our everyday walk about lives we are confronted with difficult and often painful situations. No, they don’t involve a bird, they don’t involve a BB gun, but they can be just as painful and cause just as much harm. Sometimes it is a senseless action and sometimes it is a senseless word, but the result is a wounded heart followed by a lifelong scar. And unlike my hunt ending experience with a brown thrasher, for some reason these encounters often go on and on.
Like what happened when I stared death in the face…we need to see what our words and actions can do to the innocents, or maybe not so innocents, in our lives. We need to pause and think before we speak or act…before we leave another scar. I usually write from a Jesus perspective, and I guess I am now, but really, this goes beyond that to this—be kind and love one another. Kindness and love are not always easy, but they are always right—and especially for us who follow Jesus. Wherever and whenever…we, of all people, should set the example of the One we follow. Tall order? Need help? Don’t fret…your Father is waiting to help. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne