By CHRIS BATES
Waterfowl hunting is a sport of many elements. On the gear list, it takes extensive equipment, flooded habitat, and camouflage. On the encounter end, it includes sunrises, comradery, depth of nature, and perpetual memories. Those of us who have experienced these over a lifetime would not trade them for anything. What none of us want included, though, is danger.
I was around 13 years old when our part of the world froze over that January. The anticipation was palpable when my grandfather Bert came over and loaded up my dad and my brother and me for a hunting adventure. We packed up every bit of warm gear we had, along with the boat, a motor and a mass of other equipment, before we headed to the Mississippi River. Because of the current, many of the backwater areas off the river remained unfrozen, but we all knew how treacherous the massive waterway could be in these conditions.
We put into the river near Vicksburg and headed north. My grandfather knew how to access one particular remote area, and the magic began to happen as soon as we set up. There were more ducks in the area than I had ever seen before or have since. It was a hunt that provided permanent memories, including the shaking of the boat from our shivering in the freezing temperatures, combined with my grandfather’s excitement. I also, though, remember coming back out onto the main river as we left and hitting large chunks of forming ice. The men doubled up the life jackets on my brother and me and put us further down into the center of the boat. Extremely large barges made wakes that went for hundreds of yards and made our going even more dangerous. While we did make it off the river without harm, I vividly remember the wide eyes of my father and grandfather, and a deeper fear than I had ever felt at that young age.
That situation brings to mind the ways in which we all face so many kinds of danger today. The dangers might not be caused by perilous conditions in the outdoors, but they are all around us. Sometimes they are far more invisible, subtle and divisive. Very real are the threats of alcoholism, chemical dependency, eating disorders and mental illness. None of us are impervious to being children of broken families, sufferers of abuse, or victims of unfaithfulness. PTSD is dealt with not only by some members of our military, but it impacts others of us through car wrecks, injuries or crime. If one is not personally affected by at least a few of these dangers, then we certainly care deeply about someone who is.
The great news for us today is that we have more resources for help, recovery and healing than ever before. The acceptance and open discussion of treatment and mental health help is changing the landscape and allowing so many to turn their lives around. To make that change, though, takes courage and faith on a much larger scale than our foursome experienced on that precarious river expedition. Mother Theresa said, “To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.”
The best news of all is for those of us who are in relationship with God. Courage can best be found in knowing that God carries us forever, and that our own weaknesses are the best opportunities for His work to be done. One of our greatest examples of this is in 1 Samuel 17:50 – “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, without a sword in his hand.” David was barely more than a boy, yet believed with all of his being that the Lord saves and would deliver victory.
This shows us the source that can allow any of us to face these perils with every bit of bravery and courage needed to recover and succeed. God provides the people who care about us, the tools that we need and the pathway to change. We are to meet Him along the way by finding our warrior selves and showing valor, and the reward for that courage is a walk with our Creator.
Chris Bates is CEO and co-founder of AgoraEversole a full-service marketing agency in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraEversole.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.