It was one of the most exhilarating moments in life, followed by three hours of disappointment. Yet, that moment illustrates perfectly our battle in life, especially mine as a father and husband.
I was fully prepared for the task before me. Since it was below 20 degrees that morning, I was completely covered head to toe in the warmest and most flexible camo gear I had. I’d spent weeks sighting in my bow from standing on the bed of my truck down at a target on ground level. My arrows were straight and true, ready to follow wherever I pointed the whisker biscuit and peep sight.
That hour in the deer stand at sunrise was pure bliss. That peaceful hour was suddenly interrupted by rustle in the woods beyond my vision. I grunted on my deer caller and was rewarded when a decent- sized buck appeared in the woods before me.
For those who don’t hunt much, there is a specific area of vitals we want to hit that brings about a quicker harvest and less suffering for the animal. Shooting a deer isn’t the toughest job in the world, because it’s a relatively big animal, and those who bowhunt aren’t there just to “shoot an animal.” We’re out in the freezing cold reenacting a time-honored hunting practice that the world has enjoyed for a few thousand years for one purpose, to hit within our 8” diameter mark.
The buck came within 40 feet, and, when I made a little noise, he turned to give me the perfect broadside shot. I pulled the bow back excitedly, but momentarily forgot how to aim! I realized I wasn’t laying the bowstring on my cheek, I wasn’t looking through the peep sight, and I wasn’t sure which pin to use to line up my distance! In my excitement, I forgot how to hit my mark! I released the arrow and immediately knew I hit him (I could see the point of impact), but knew I missed his vitals. I shot too high and toward the rear of the animal, missing my mark.
Over three hours and a half mile of tracking later, my church buddy and I had to call off our search. We had lost the blood trail and had no deer meat for the freezer. Missing by 6-9 inches of that “bullseye” mark was enough to give me guilt in knowing that the deer went through extended suffering that I didn’t intend or want. It gave me guilt in knowing that I spent over four hours away from my family with nothing to show for it. It gave me grief knowing that in that moment of testing, there were no excuses: I ... missed ... my ... mark.
If you’re not up on your church lingo, there is a word we use that simply means, “to miss the mark.” That word is “sin.” In my handy dandy Greek dictionary, I am given a few definitions for the way this word is used throughout the Bible.
1) to be without a share in the prize,
2) to miss the mark,
3) to err, be mistaken,
4) to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong,
5) to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law.
It’s important for us to understand this concept of sin, not as a fancy church word that gives people a license to be judgmental, but as a word that helps us describe what happens when we miss the mark God intended for our lives and for humanity. When the hunter misses his mark, he misses out on the desired prize, he loses precious time on the hunt, wastes precious resources, and causes unnecessary suffering.
Like missing the mark for a hunter, I sin a lot as a dad and husband. I get angry, yell, make promises I can’t keep, and forget dates I should keep. My mistakes leave me without a prize, losing precious time in life, wasting our precious resources, and often causes unnecessary suffering for my family. Consider when a man commits adultery in his marriage, which God defines in the Bible as a “sin,” a missing of the bullseye God intended for humanity (Hebrews 13:4). What follows is time lost, resources wasted, unnecessary suffering for all parties involved, and the people involved missing out on one of God’s best prizes in life, the wedded bliss that comes of a happy and healthy marriage. In one moment of missing the mark - sinning - a person can destroy years of preparation, of time investment, and of love. Whether we’re talking about adultery, drunkenness, gossip, or angry words, each of the sins misses the mark for what God intended for humanity. When we allow our families to indulge in “missing the mark,” we’re setting them up for a similar disappointment that I experienced when I sinned from my deer stand in the woods.
This is partly why I continue to daily read the Bible with my children, involve them in Christian-based activities, surround them with positive Christian influences, take them to be part of an active church, and discipline them in small areas where they miss the mark. It’s an effort to strengthen my family by preparing them for a life to routinely hit the bullseye.
Now that you understand sin from a hunter’s perspective, please understand the core of Christianity and why Jesus came. Just as no trained and disciplined hunter can hit the bullseye of a target perfectly every time he shoots every day of his life, so also I will miss the mark sometimes as a family man. No man is perfect but Jesus. Romans 3:23 tells us that all people have missed the mark, and Romans 6:23 tells us there is a stiff penalty for our sin. Yet God, in all His great providence, gave us Jesus who paid the price for our missing of marks, so that we can enjoy the prize anyway.
Friends, whether hunting or raising a family, may your aim be true this season so that you hit all your marks. Also, let your heart be grateful for Jesus who not only straightens our aim but gives us hope of eternal life even when we miss. Thank God for Jesus.
“The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23