I went with my oldest son out to west Texas on a hunting trip. It was our first. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate my son’s graduation from elementary school and entrance into the preteen years. It was a coming-of-age trip. While there, we had a morning hunt and an evening hunt each day. We awoke at 5:45am to get to the deer stands before first light. In the evenings we were at the stands before sundown. This means for four days we saw every sunrise and every sunset on the west Texas horizon. It was amazing.
One lesson I learned from this experience was that frontier living is different than living in the comforts of home. What might feel “extreme” back home is a necessity out there. For instance, all the hunting gear seems unnecessary when you are purchasing it back home. But when you are sitting in 27 degree weather for two hours, in the dark, before the sun rises, you discover the true purpose of all that gear.
One might think, “Why do we need boots and hunting pants? Won’t shoes and normal pants be sufficient?” And the answer is, “No.” But you don’t realize it until you’re hiking through west Texas terrain full of spikes, thorns, and cactus. It’s not a walk in the woods out there. On the frontier, everything is trying to sting you, stick you, or bite you. Boots and hunting pants protect you from constantly being stuck.
And who really needs a sidearm when you have a rifle? It seems like overkill produced by gun-happy NRA advocates. It seems excessive back home. But it’s not out there. There are mountain lions and black bear that roam the same area as the deer. When you are hiking through the dark to and from a deer stand, it’s difficult to have a rifle ready if you were to be attacked. A sidearm protects you from these predators. On our trip we saw a momma black bear and her cub getting into one of the corn feeders. We had to go chase it off and shoot guns in the air to scare it. The danger from these animals is real out there and the need for a sidearm is equally real.
Likewise, cruising around the Target parking lot does not exactly demand 4-wheel drive vehicles. But out on the frontier, 4-wheel drive vehicles are the only ones that will make it over the rocky mountain roads. On the way to the hunting lease, one goes from highway (70 mph), to gravel roads made of caliche (25 mph), to rocky trails (5 mph). Having a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not an attempt to flaunt ego, it is an absolute necessity for getting anywhere.
I saw this pattern over and over again. What seems excessive back in the comfort of suburban life was needed for survival in the terrain of the frontier of west Texas. And it got me thinking about how this is true in the Christian faith. If you dare to live on the frontier of faith, entering the untamed wilds of the kingdom of darkness in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, you will do things, say things, and live in a way that seem extreme to those satisfied to stay in their comfort zone of faith. If you want to plunder the kingdom of darkness, one must be willing to live in the borderlands, the badlands, where extreme faith, radical power, and pioneering risk-taking are not the exception but the rule. What seems like extreme faith is really just faith on the frontier. What seems like extreme obedience is really just obedience on the frontier. They are what is necessary to live, survive, and thrive.