The Specter of Guilt.
Sometimes balancing hunting, home life, and considering how God’s glory plays into it all makes me want to completely throw my hands up in the air and just not deal with any of them. Going out to actually do anything on my own can be so guilt-laden that I’ve often cancelled trips just to not have the guilt anymore. I’ve gone as far as saying to my wife, “You know, the kids are at a point that they really need me at home, I think I’m just going to sell all my hunting and fishing stuff.” She rolls her eyes, and says, “That would be really dumb.” and the conversation ends.
I’m not trying to play the martyr when I say these things. It certainly comes out that way though. The most important things, when it comes to being a husband and a father, to me are being sure that my family is “okay”. But recently, I ran across an idea that brought a much needed mind shift. How does completely leaving behind a hobby that feeds and refreshes my spirit, and allows me to introduce someone else, namely my children and my wife, to those same experiences glorify God?
Pastor John Piper was asked about this same idea and I loved his response:
“…is the hobby, the leisure, the recreation feeding your own soul with God exalting experiences? Do you see God in it and find your spirit enlivened for him in it? Or is it dragging you down? Is it leading you more distant from him, more indifferent to him, more in love with the world and less in love with him? That is question one.
Question two. Is the hobby, the leisure, the recreation refreshing you physically, emotionally, spiritually, for the other parts of your life where you need energy and focus to live for his glory as part of your vocation, perhaps, or your family? Or is the hobby depleting you and weakening you and making you less able to do that part of your life to the glory of God? That is question two.
So here is three. Are you involving others in your hobby, leisure, recreation so that they are pointed to the glory of God? Is your hobby a means of drawing others into your life for the sake of authentic relationships leading to Christ?
So it seems to me that those are the questions that are more prominent than the amount of time you spend or the amount of money you spend. Time and money are a subset of those questions. So instead of thinking quantitatively, quantities of time, quantities of money, think qualitatively, the quality of your walk with God and the quality of your walk with others. Is the hobby deepening your walk with God and enhancing your witness to others?” – John Piper (see the full response here.)
If Glorifying God is Important, then We Should Take Note.
What I love the most about this idea is that it does not give permission to demand time doing whatever we want to do. Rather, we see that there is a supremacy to the condition of the relationships we have in our lives. I should take part in these hobbies so that God’s nature can be seen accurately through us and with others. And if God is truly being glorified in our relationships, we can be sure that those relationships will be healthy ones.
So, with regard to hunting and fishing, yes, my soul is fed by participating in the outdoors. Yes, I am able to see God in it and my spirit is enlivened by it. When I hunt and fish, my emotions, my physical state, my spirit is refreshed to live for God’s glory in all of the aspects of my life. Yes, I’m involving others so that they can see the glory of God in it.
But this raises yet another question. How “okay” is my family if I’m not attending to the the parts of me that need refreshing? The things that participating in hunting and fishing does for me are unmeasurably important. The people of God glorify God greatly when their spirits are full, their relationships are edifying, and they are emotionally healthy. If I want my family to grow and do well, they need to see God in me, not a spiritually depleted version of me.
Why Not Pick a Less-involved Hobby?
Hunting and fishing really are not for everyone. They do involve so much of every aspect mentioned. Physical exertion, emotional renewal, and spiritual spiritual filling take place so naturally in those places. The key is focus that is separated completely from all other distractions.
I spent a few days camping with a friend while we Turkey hunted. The first night we were out, I actually noticed things I hadn’t paid attention to in years. The sounds of the spring evening. The wind pressing on the tent. And something that came out of my mouth surprised me. I told my friend, “The most beautiful thing about this, is that I get to focus on one thing; killing a turkey.”
It was like my whole life was on pause, and my full effort could be on just one thing. I’ve heard the phrase, “Let go, and let God.” This was so much more than that. When I’m hunting, I’m reminded that I don’t have to let God do anything.God will always do what he says he is going to do. All I have to do is let go of all the garbage I’m holding on to, and cling to him again. A less involved hobby couldn’t touch that.
It’s Not Always Perfect
The truth is, we should never use hunting to just ignore our issues. I’ve seen many people trying to pass off hunting as their numbing agent in the same manner as alcohol or drugs. Numbing the pain of an illness is never a reliable solution. Sometimes, God can use hunting as that one thing that can bring some clarity. The important thing is that we recognize our tendencies, and use our love for the outdoors to bring peace, provision, and a clear testimony back into the lives of those around us when we return.