Monday, January 18, 2010

Step Forward : A Masonic Life Lesson Learned

The following was written by WB Brian Rau of Montgomery#426. Brian was deer hunting the morning of his last meeting as Master when the following event occured. As Brian was fixing to close the Lodge for the last time, he rendered the following for those of us in the Lodge. It truly touched my I'm sure it will yours' as well. Derek.

December the 1st of 2009 was a day that will live forever in my memory as one of my greatest hunting days. Success was mine in a big way; more accurately a very BIG way. The buck deer I harvested that day was the largest deer I have ever seen while afield deer hunting, and the second largest deer I have ever seen in the woods and fields of western North Carolina, in all my days. It was a beautiful 9-point deer with a rack of moderate size and mass, not anything close to those taken in Ohio or Minnesota, but a real treasure for western North Carolina, and a true blessing for me in more ways than perhaps I will ever realize. Though the shoulder mount will be a beautiful adornment on the wall of my living room, and the meat will provide many delicious and healthy meals, the experience provided a serendipitous lesson that was the real gold nugget of the event.

First, let me describe the event in basic details. I was 30 minutes from the time I had decided I needed to be home, to get cleaned up for my last Stated Communication as Worshipful Master of Montgomery Masonic Lodge. That morning I sat in the root-ball pocket of a large oak that had fallen over many years before, located about 200 yards behind my parents’ house, at the very head of the branch by their house. As it was getting on into the second half of our short deer rifle season (buck only), and I had not even seen the first doe in the area, I decided to walk up the head of the valley and on top of the knoll behind my right shoulder to look for sign in the oak stand there before heading straight down the spur ridge to the house.

Nearing the top, I heard movement to my right in a laurel and brush thicket, which I suspected could be either a fleeing squirrel, or a nervous deer moving away from me towards the oak stand. As I slowly crept up though the stand of small birch in the draw and was looking for a quick glimpse of a deer running off through the thicket to my right, I was astonished to see something I would never imagined in my wildest dreams. Just 25 yards laterally left and 20 feet in elevation above me, on the dividing main ridge, a beautiful mature buck step up from the backside Laurel and Rhododendron thicket, with his eyes scanning the same thicket I had been skirting. I froze in anticipation of his immediate recognition of my presence. I was amazed as he started walking forward along the ridge and then started to cut diagonally down across the end of the draw, maybe 40 yards in front of me, just past a blocking laurel patch. I cautiously stepped forward another ten feet or so, before he cleared the laurel. By then, he was 50 yards or so ahead and passing through the densest area of the small birch stand. Once again, I was left with the sinking feeling that I would watch a beautiful opportunity to harvest a real

Class-A deer bound away, either to lack of a decent shot, or to his inevitable and eventual detection of me.

My usual mental attitude at this situation would be to accept defeat and just try to be thankful for having caught a glimpse of such a fine specimen in my old, but unsuccessful, hunting grounds. But God had a different plan for me this day, and one that I can learn so much from, not just about hunting, but about life and opportunities. As this fine buck neared the bottom of the draw, a different voice in my head said step forward, despite my “well-founded” fear of detection. I took two or three steps forward and looked through the new scope on my trusty old Marlin .30-’30, but the shot was still too narrow. Rather than giving up, I squatted down and braced myself and my rifle against the nearest birch, just as the buck stopped with his head directly behind the largest birch in his area, and just two steps short of the only shot I would be given this day. This narrow window of opportunity was not visible when I was still standing at full height, and would not have opened up from any height, if I had not taken those fateful steps forward. As I braced, quietly cocked the hammer back to full cock, and unblocked the safety, the buck stepped forward one step and started to turn his head to look nearly straight at me. I held my breath, expecting him, or an unseen deer elsewhere, to make that dreaded “blow” that would send them all running tails high for the next drainage. To my relief, he turned his focus back to straight in line with his path and stepped forward with a clear resolve. My Marlin, the new Hornady LeveRevolution ammo, and my scope did the job as good as I could ever have asked; and the buck went right to the ground with stiff legs, in the spot where the bullet struck him. Needless to say, I approached him with rifle to shoulder, like I was in a drug raid, and did not let my guard down until I had placed the barrel of my rifle against his chest and his eye.

The whole time I had watched him, I knew he was a fine deer; but once I saw him close-up, I realized what an amazing trophy I had been blessed with. Without another thought, I found myself on the ground on bended knee, thanking God who had whispered in my ear, “Step Forward”. It was He who made that day possible, and it was He who provided that narrow opportunity and the steadying tree right where I needed it to be. Surely He kept the wind in my favor, and let my all-too-big body form blend in against the woods that were so vertical, when I occupy so much more space horizontally. Yes, of course, the rifle and ammo, the camo, and my scent control efforts all were helpful, and the bullet did an amazing job on impact; but how many times do all those efforts and technology fail to put a deer on the ground in front of the best hunter, in the best of conditions. For all this to take place for me (I will tell anyone I am not the most skilled and experienced hunter), I believe a personal miraculous blessing from God was given to me that day. Most of the pictures taken of me by the time I drug that deer down the mountain through the thickets, over and under downed trees, and through the creek bed, make it appear as though I was not very happy or thankful; but nothing could be further from the truth. Though my exhaustion and near dehydration may have temporarily shut down my deeper inner-thoughts and reflections, the important lesson that would bless me most, would come in the following hours and days.

Base lesson learned here for both mankind and more especially the brethren in Freemasonry: Step Forward!!!. Many times in life, and more especially in our Masonic activities and planning, we will see all the obstacles and the reasons we will “surely” fail to fully accomplish our goal or affect the change we desire, so we will not act at all. I do not suggest that as Masons and men, we should foolishly and haphazardly attempt to do anything and everything that comes to mind, without proper planning and due effort. But alas, through faith in the Great Architect of the Universe, we plan to do our best wherever and whenever we see a need; and we make the effort with prayer, force of numbers, and the knowledge that it is the right thing to do. When the situation looks like it is too narrow an opportunity to reach the desired goal, then we should first step forward and look for an un-seen opening, before admitting defeat and failing to act. The great power of Freemasons to affect real and positive changes in the world around us is in faith in God and the power of teamwork, not only amongst the brothers of one lodge, but among multiple lodges and all Masons working together. We should always remember that to first receive the blessing from God that Masonry has been to our lives, we first must have come to the Lodge with an open, hopeful, and faithful heart, and then knocked more than once and been tried multiple times, to reach that most sublime and desirable place of enlightenment and brotherly love. Let us not sit quietly in a seats in the lodge, and not stand up and offer what we can for the good of our fellow man, and thus for the good of Masonry. Let us not fail to ever act where there exists need, without due and prudent consideration as to what we can do, with God’s blessings and faith-driven efforts.

With Him at the center of our Lodges and our lives, we should meet on the Level, acting by the Plumb, and Step Forward to serve Him in the world, guided along the straight and narrow path by His light, giving Him due praises for His many blessings, that we might part this world on the Square, and enter that “House not built with hands, eternal in Heaven”.

1 comment:

Derek Cheek said...

Brother Brian....I have read this over and over again...each time tearing up a little bit as the words you've offered echo thru my heart. Thank you so VERY much for these great words!