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Don’t Look a Gift Duck in the Mouth

A few days ago – at the ungodly hour of 4:15 am – I woke up. It wasn’t to go to the bathroom, although at my age, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that. No, it was to slip on some cammies and grab a quick cup of coffee before going duck hunting.

I’ve never duck hunted before, so this was quite an adventure for me. Once we got to the site, my guide told me to “brush out” my layout blind, which involved sticking dead broomweed around the perimeter and throwing dead vegetation on top to fool the keen-eyed ducks. Then I slipped into the blind, which resembles a sleeping bag with a big headrest, and waited.

As the sky turned from tar-black to gunmetal grey, we heard a faint whirring which grew louder until…

PLOP!

A flock of ducks landed in the tank. Unfortunately for me, the birds weren’t close, but a guy on my far right bagged one. The hunt was on!

I would love to tell you that I got my limit, but I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t shoot one bird — not one. Zip, zero, nada. The first time I drew a bead and pulled the trigger, I had the safety on. Typical noob mistake. The next time I fired, the ducks were on the wing and slightly out of range. After that, it was broad daylight and apparently the survivors had spread the word to their fellow waterfowl to stay clear of us.

I may not have bagged a duck, but I got some quality time with Sam the Lab

The guide’s black Lab, Sam, splashed out into the cold water and retrieved a total of eight ducks. Once we got back into town, the two experienced hunters divided their birds between me and another guy who came up empty-handed. At first we protested: “No, no, don’t do that! They’re your ducks! Keep them!” We finally relented and now I have duck breast in my freezer.

What is it about me that loves to give, but embarrassed to receive? Some of my fondest memories as a pastor was representing the church when giving Thanksgiving boxes to low-income families or presenting a check to someone who was going through a hard time. But whenever I myself got a money tree, compliment, or  free lunch, a feeling of chagrin washed over me.

I did a Google search on this subject and apparently I’m not the only one who has a hard time receiving. Psychologists think there are several reasons for this: we feel the need to reciprocate; we don’t want to appear selfish; we experience vulnerability when we take instead of give. 

Personally, I felt unworthy when these guys handed over their ducks. I didn’t shoot anything. I didn’t earn it; therefore, I didn’t deserve it. To add to my embarrassment, one of the guys bought us all breakfast. I protested with my credit card in hand. He told me to put it away. He seemed happy to bless us.

Which brings me to the subject of grace: amazing, undeserved grace! None of us can win, buy, or achieve enough to attain the love of God. God’s love “just is” because, well, God is love (1 John 4:16). I hate to break it to my fellow busy bees, but if I feel I have to work to worm my way into God’s good graces, then I have shot down the very notion of divine love (see how I worked in a hunting reference there?).

One verse I turn to again and again is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Let this great truth sink into the nooks and crannies of your soul: grace saves you (not your good deeds); you access this grace through faith (not through religious performance); and grace is a heavenly gift (not a human attainment). Last time I checked, gifts are to be received with joy and gratitude – not guilt or shame.

I hope to go duck hunting again. This time, I am sure I will click the safety off as I hunker down for the ducks to fly in. That would be my gift to me.

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