I pulled in and parked the truck. I eased my orange vest onto my shoulders as I slid out of the pickup and stepped into the soft mud of the forest floor. I filled my vest with shotgun shells and slipped my side by side out of its case. I flipped my hat on my head and gave an “Elmer Fudd” chortle.
The rains had recently subsided and the ditches ran with a swift current. I waded through the ankle deep water in my non-waterproof boots and began my pursuit of the elusive woodland ruffed grouse. One by one, I targeted all of my favorite hot spots. I slithered up to the fallen tree next to the swamp…slowly…slowly…fully ready for the explosion of wings blowing up before me…Nothing.
I worked my way around the swamp, through the thickest brush and aspens. Occasionally, I would trip and nearly fall…saving myself from a face plant in the mud with a face plant into a poplar tree. It was worth it if it salvaged the soiling of my firearm and mud on my face. Grouse are so tender and delicious you don’t need teeth to eat them anyway.
As I finished my trip around the pond…still nothing.
I turned eastward and entered more dense foliage. I still had a few productive locations to pursue. I checked the thick edge of the hummock. Nothing. I walked around the aspen encircled puddle of water. Nothing.
After three hours of pounding the brush, I sat down…muddy…bloody…and exhausted. “That’s it…I’m finished,” I said to myself.
As I stood and turned to head back out, a bird suddenly exploded in front of me. I quickly brought the coach gun to my shoulder and pulled the trigger…click…click. Six squirrels immediately chattered their amusement in my direction.
There I stood, dumbfounded. I had just spent more than three hours trudging through swamps, brush and thorns. I had been whipped in the face with branches…tripped by logs…laughed at by squirrels, and when my one opportunity came for a bird, all I had to offer was an empty gun.
In all of my excitement, I had forgotten to load my gun!
I am reminded of 1 Cor. 13, in which Paul talks about all of these wonderful gifts of the Spirit…yet these gifts are meaningless if there is no LOVE. There I stood…with all the tools available to make a successful bird hunt…yet, without a loaded firearm…I had NOTHING. The birds could have had tracking devices on them for all I was concerned…but without a loaded gun…I didn’t have a chance.
I hope that we can all come to see…that even the most wonderful gifts…abilities…talents…etc…are all NOTHING…if they are not driven by a LOVE for God…and a LOVE for people.