Last weekend I went deer hunting on Mule Mountain with two friends (yes, there really is a place called Mule Mountain, though I’ve never seen any mules there). By the way, don’t worry about the deer; they are perfectly safe when I go hunting. The older I get the more I hunt for the male camaraderie. At least that’s what I tell myself. In reality I can’t see or hear as well as I used to and so the deer are long gone before I come stomping through their neighborhood.
Anyhow, one of my buddies (I’ll call him John) and I were in position to hunt from the summit of Mule Mountain down the west side to a spot where my other buddy (I’ll call him Carl) was waiting in case we jumped a buck that might run out ahead of us, thus affording Carl an opportunity to bag the crafty creature. Carl hiked up the Mountain part way to get in position.
You need to know that Carl is eighty-five and doesn’t hear well. This makes for some interesting conversations between Carl, John and me on the two-way radios we use to keep track of each other when we’re thrashing around in the woods. Carl is John’s dad and just before we started down the Mountain, John called Carl on the radio to let him know we were beginning the hunt. The conversation went something like this:
“Dad, are you there?” said John.
“Is that you, John?” said Carl.
“Yes, we’re at the top, ready to come down,” said John.
“You’re going where?” said Carl.
“I’m coming down the old jeep road and Grady’s coming down the ridge above Stony Creek,” said John.
“One of you guys oughta come down the old jeep road and the other oughta come down the ridge above Stony Creek,” said Carl.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Not at Carl, but at the absurdity of the human condition. It’s funny how we tend to focus on our failing abilities as we age. I don’t know about you but I need new glasses every couple of years. Arthritis is rearing its ugly head in the most inconvenient places in my body. I have lost much of my high-frequency hearing. And my stomach no longer tolerates Thai cuisine. Our bodies can be a source of tremendous disappointment. But then it dawned on me: Carl is eighty-five and still hiking and hunting in the mountains. You can walk into any assisted living or skilled nursing facility and find eighty-five year old men sitting in wheel chairs, barely able to scoot themselves down the hall to the dining room.
It’s astounding that Carl is still so active in the outdoors. How is it possible at his age? Well, genetics probably help. But I’d bet it has a lot to do with Carl’s nature. He doggedly remains active and he doesn’t seem to worry about much. He goes to garage sales. He collects and recycles iron and brass. He buys used trailers and fixes them up for resale. He takes clothing to a local charity. And this is crucial: he has something to look forward to. In his case, it’s deer season. He also does not isolate himself from people. If we want a prosperous and invigorating life, we need something to look forward to. It can be the annual deer hunt. It can be the opening weekend of trout season. It can be crafts like making jewelry or a passion like cooking or making wine. It can be training a dog, but not a cat. It can be almost anything that you look forward to with anticipation. It’s important that, whatever it is, it gets you out doing something. Movement is life.
All my life of faith I’ve heard how we Christians look forward to heaven. And I do look forward to heaven. But heaven transcends this earthly life of hardship and struggle. I think it is perfectly acceptable to petition God for something to look forward to here and now. In fact, I think God smiles when we have something to look forward to on this side of heaven. And without it we might be shortening our lives.