"Mommy, I'm so excited I can't sleep. I'm laying really still but I just can't sleep!"
His little head was full of excitement for his early morning wake up call from his Dad. They were getting up at 5am to go deer hunting. But this time he wouldn't just be tagging along. This time HE was the hunter. It's youth season this weekend, and he's finally old enough to carry his own firearm.
For two weeks we've been talking about it. I've watched him and his dad shooting targets off the back patio. I've watched them drawing diagrams of deer and discussing where to aim for a clean, quick kill. I've heard him get lectured on the importance of a quick kill, with no suffering.
I've listened to them discuss how hunting is fun, but a huge responsibility. I've heard them thoroughly break down the laws and ethics that come with hunting. I've listened to them talk about why we hunt, how we will harvest the meat, and I've even agreed to cook it however he requests.
When Matt was stuck in the combine, I stepped up to take him shopping to get cold weather hunting gear when we realized it was going to be freezing cold.
I learned that you can get everything imaginable in camo. I also learned it costs 20% more if it is camo and that there are actually different patterns of camo. I learned there's different oranges and that not all bright orange is the legal "blaze organge". And last night I learned hunters have to take white powered donuts to the stand. Or at least hunters in this family do.
Over the last few weeks I've had mixed feelings. He's so little still. It's a real gun. He's going to kill something. I grew up in a hunting household, with a dad and brother who hunted religiously. But I am not a hunter.
And I wasn't sure how I would feel sending him out the door this morning.
I got up this morning with them. I helped him get all thirteen layers of camo on and I made him hot chocolate I put in my coffee mug. I gave him a hug, took his picture, and wished him good luck.
And when I went back inside, I realized what I was feeling. I was feeling excitement too! I was hopeful for him. And I was proud of him.
He's not home yet, so I don't know how it went. But I can't wait to hear about it. Any reservation I had must have subconsciously been erased over the last few days of watching him and dad prepare, and listening to them talk and plan.
And I've thought of all the great hunters I know - his Dad, his Grandpas, both his uncles - and those are the men I want him to grow into. They are men of honor and patience, responsible men, men who respect and love nature. Men who love to hunt.
I imagine the last few hours, sitting in the freezing cold alongside his dad, with no cell phones or electronics, watching the glory of God's creation and exercising the vast responsibility of hunting, is a time that will be stamped in his memory forever.
And when I think of all that he will learn as he grows into a seasoned hunter - conservation, responsibility, respect, self-sufficiency - I know that he belongs in that tree stand.
He may, or may not get his first deer this weekend. But either way, he's taken a huge step towards growing up. And growing into the man God wants him to be.
Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Genesis 27:3