By CHRIS BATES
It was January 2018, and the Mississippi Delta was almost completely frozen. Only the deep, slow-moving rivers were not fully iced over, plus a few sparse flooded areas where the ducks and geese were crowding together to keep the water open. For the waterfowl hunters who could access those spots and endure the sub-freezing temperatures, it was the perfect opportunity.
Those who are not waterfowl hunters might not understand our excitement about breaking thick ice to wade out with our equipment, decoys and retrievers before dawn. This kind of chance only happens every few years, and that’s if we are fortunate. The morning after the ice storm had mostly cleared through, we were there, and the anticipation was tremendous.
It was a near-perfect hunt. The beauty of the storm breaking over the Delta horizon at dawn was spectacular. The ducks came right in, my retriever was at constant work through the choppy ice, and we reached our bag limits quickly. We were a group of friends who had hunted together for a lifetime, and we celebrated with smiles, back slaps and frozen-fingered high-fives.
It was one of those moments in time when you remember every detail: the frozen air in your lungs, the adrenaline and thrill of the moments, the seemingly deafening sounds of hundreds of waterfowl overhead, the dramatic colors of the ice and feathers, and the glory of it all coming together. In these moments, it is easy to be fully present and embed the memories from all of your senses.
Imagine with me how we can carry more of that into daily life. What if we can more acutely use the senses that God gave us to be more profoundly aware of what is right in front of us? How can we use those vivid memory times as a model? It is true that sometimes life can be mundane and/or challenging. We must sometimes trudge through life’s mud while on the road to happy destiny.
As followers of Christ, we can appreciate the ultimate promise and gift: salvation through Him and eternity with Him. The tougher part of the journey as a disciple, though, is living and giving in the peace and grace that He gives us during this life on earth. The means to do so for you and me takes serenity, contentment and focus on the present — no matter what life may look like. It takes being able to convince oneself that “I’m good right here, with what I’ve got.” We can then use the lenses that God has meant for us to wear to observe every detail in each moment.
Psalm 91 provides a full explanation of His promises to us. Verses 14–16 go so far as to tell us: “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”
It is like a child who goes out to play but knows intuitively that home is always right there. This reassurance can let us more freely have gratitude in the present.
Along with utilizing the confidence that comes from knowing these promises, we must also limit our distractedness. Our fast-moving world swims in technology and instant changes of focus. In order to best see, feel, touch and smell the intricacies that are right in front of us, we should maintain our focus through those corrected lenses. Christ is our greatest example (as usual).
In a blog about community, Tim Keller wrote, “God did not simply send us the Bible, a message through the communication medium of writing … But instead, God also came himself, in the flesh, to be fully present to us in Jesus Christ. It is only through his being fully present with us that we could be saved by grace. In the same way, we must learn to be fully present … ”
Be challenged to heighten your senses and truly notice the details. Use your experiences with highly memorable moments as training for how to see more in your walk today. No matter your circumstances, talents or place in life, He gives all of us opportunities all of the time. God will show you more than you can imagine.
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.