Another lesson I learned from hunting was how different it is to shoot a rifle compared to a shotgun. These are two different kinds of shooting for two different kinds of targets.
When you shoot a rifle, you are aiming at a large animal (or target) hundreds of yards away. You are looking through a scope that will get off target with the slightest movement. Even your breathing will mess up your shot. So, with a rifle, the goal is to calm everything down. Even pulling too quickly on the trigger will mess up the shot. It must be squeezed carefully.
I didn’t realize how much my heart would race right before I pulled the trigger (and this was when I was aiming at a paper target). I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep the crosshairs of the scope directly on the bullseye. First, your scope must be calibrated accurately. And, in order for an accurate shot, you have to intensionally exhale slowly and calm your heart rate. The extent to which you are able to achieve a kind of calm and peace is the extent to which your shot will be on target.
The spiritual applications here are obvious and many. When we live in panic, fear, and anxiety, it is nearly impossible to live “on target” in the Christian life. The peace of Christ is what helps us see clearly what we’re aiming at. Our internal world greatly impacts our external world.
And if we are believing lies about ourself, the world, or God Himself, we need a recalibration of truth from His word. We can be “at peace” all we want, but if the scope of our understanding is skewed, every shot will be a little off. We see this in abundance in our culture. Many are claiming to have found “inner peace” but their life is still off target. They need a recalibration of truth.
Then there is the shotgun!
I found that shooting a shotgun was completely the opposite experience from a rifle. Shotguns are often used for bird hunting–for closer, smaller targets that are moving quickly. Whereas with a rifle the shooter has to be still and has to wait for the deer to be still, with a shotgun everything is moving–the target and the shooter.
We spent an afternoon shooting clay pigeons with various shotguns. At first I tried to use the sights on the shotgun to aim at the clay discs flying through the air. That didn’t work. I was trying to apply lessons learned on the rifle to the shotgun. But when I tried to use the sights, I probably missed 9 out of 10 shots. I knew I had to switch up my technique if I was going to hit anything.
Instead of “aiming” I started to just “feel” the shot. I stopped using the sights and, instead, kept my eyes on the clay disc. This allowed me to move the barrel of the gun with the movement of the disc. I started to get a feel for how the disc was moving and where it was going. When I shot this way, I probably hit 8 out of 10 shots. It also helps that shotgun shells shoot a spread of BBs instead of a single bullet. They give up distance and power for a larger spread downrange.
Again, more lessons learned. While rifle shooting felt more like obedience to the clear directives in Scripture–a clear bullseye in a controlled environment, shooting a shotgun felt more like the obedience that comes from following the prompting of the Spirit–on the fly and in the moment.
The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” and “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 & 25). There is a certain intuition, a certain feel, to following the Spirit at times. It is relational. There is movement to it. It can be a moving target, so obedience requires motion. It’s often less about an exact bullseye way off in the distance and more about sensing the movement of something flying through the air.
In hunting, both the rifle and the shotgun are necessary. Both have different purposes and uses. This is true for the Christian life as well. We need to enter a place of peace and calm and be able to live out the clear directives of Scripture. We also need to be able to follow the spontaneous promptings of the Spirit. We need a disciplined life that consistently keeps the life of Jesus in our crosshairs. We also don’t avoid sin by striving to keep the law but by keeping in step with the Spirit. Both are necessary elements in our life with Christ. Both are what is needed in order to stay on target.