Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When we first saw Lexie Lou on Friday evening at the Texas Trophy Lodge, she was sporting a fresh band-aid on her forehead. Unfortunately, she’d learned a lesson about soft-shouldering a rifle the hard way and had a nice little gash from her rifle scope. She was soft spoken, timid, and unsure of her place in our little community of outdoors men and women. When daylight arrived the next morning, a whitetail doe stepped out and Lexie got behind the rifle to take aim… and then fear took over. With that fresh gash on her forehead she was afraid of the rifle and certain that she’d hurt herself if she pulled the trigger. With fear and doubt entrenched in her mind, it wasn’t something that her dad alone was going to be able to talk her through in a deer blind.
Back at the lodge after the unsuccessful hunt, something quite special happened. The community that she was so unsure of stepped up and began to meet needs that she didn’t even know that she had. Kind words and encouragement flowed in abundance. One of the men offered up a rifle with little to no recoil. Others chimed in with advice based on the experience they’d had with their young children. A plan was developed and put into action that we hoped would help Lexie conquer her fear and doubt, and we all headed out to the rifle range after breakfast to give Lexie a chance to get some practice in a controlled environment.
One of the young ladies stepped up to set the example and sent round after round downrange to assure Lexie that it was both safe and fun. When Lexie’s turn behind the rifle came, she sat on her dad’s lap and went the through the motions before freezing up again. In talking with her, it became apparent that fear alone was not the only issue she was facing. The biggest hurdle in front of Lexie was the fact that she didn’t believe that she could do it. She lacked confidence in her own ability to confront something new and intimidating. She’d work up the courage and start to pull the trigger, but doubt would set in and she’d back off because she didn’t think she could do it. In reality, the problem had little to do with the recoil of the rifle and a lot to do with the confidence of the young lady.
When they saw her struggle, her community stepped up in a big way. Affirmation and encouragement and hugs and high fives came from every direction. One of the men brought out a shoulder pad and encouraged her to dry fire the weapon several times to get a better feel for the scope, the trigger, and the trigger pull. Her dad was praying over her constantly and reminding her to find strength in her relationship with God. More kind and uplifting words were shared by everyone there as a live round was chambered. She tentatively squeezed off a shot and a loud cheer erupted from her community… and she grinned. Everyone celebrated her success, and a big group marched down range to look at the target and show her the little hole she’d made right next to the bullseye. Her grin got a little bigger when she saw that little hole so accurately placed, and she got a heaping helping of high fives as her community continued to pile on the praise and encouraging words.
Back at the shooting table, her second shot came surprisingly fast as her confidence grew and a fresh round of applause put yet another grin on her face. Then something happened that caught everyone by surprise… she asked if she could please shoot again! After a third shot and a third round of applause from her community, she marched down range to find three holes within a few inches of the bullseye and came back beaming with a grin from ear to ear.
There was now confidence in her stride, her posture, and even her interaction with the rest of the community. Her entire countenance changed, and it remained changed for the remainder of the weekend. Not only had she gained confidence in herself and her ability to handle the rifle, she’d gained confidence in exactly where she stood within her community. She belonged with us. She received affection and encouragement from us when she was experiencing fear and doubt, and that assured her that she was in a place where she was safe, valued, and accepted despite her fear. Her interaction with everyone changed, and she was no longer quiet and timid. She was eager to play catch with the football and sit around the table laughing and playing cards with everyone. She was confident and at the center of everything that happened. She began to flourish, and her lively spirit and personality took its rightful place in our little community.
That evening, Lexie shot her first deer. Her grin as she saw it fall was priceless. She proudly wore blood streaks on her cheeks and raced over to tell all of the returning hunters about her successful harvest and show off those cheeks. It was a truly wonderful moment that she and her dad will never forget… and her community won’t either.
There are three important life lessons that we can all take from this story if we pay attention:
When Lexie experienced fear and doubt, she pulled away from our community because she was unsure if she belonged. We were all successful outdoors men and women with track records, and she wasn’t even sure that she could shoot the rifle. She didn’t know us well, she didn’t know herself and her own capabilities well, and that resulted in a young lady that was shy, timid, reserved, and cautious. In the same way, when we experience fear and doubt in our lives we are likely to pull away from biblical community because we are unsure if we belong. However, one of the major tools that God uses to dispel fear and doubt is biblical community, so that is when we most need it. Lexie was shy and timid because she didn’t know us very well, but we were exactly what she needed in order to finally conquer her fear and doubt. Many people run FROM community when they fail or experience hardship, but that’s exactly when they should be running TO community for help. As individuals, it’s important that we fight those urges to pull away and be disciplined to seek out meaningful biblical community during both the good and bad times. As a community, we need to be mindful of the impact of fear and doubt and seek out those individuals that are struggling whether they ask us to or not.
Lexie’s success in the evening hunt was something she’ll remember for the rest of her life, but it’s also something we’ll remember, too. Why? Because every man and woman in the group contributed to her success with encouraging words, cheer, affection, experience-based advice, practical assistance, prayer, and the creation of a loving environment that fostered confidence and acceptance. It wasn’t just Lexie that was successful; our entire community was successful that day. Had she done it all alone, the success would have been hers alone. But, because the community stepped up and participated, every member of the community was personally invested in Lexie’s efforts and anxiously awaiting the results. In the end, her success was magnified and celebrated all the more because so many played a role. Biblical community magnifies and shares the success of the individual with the community, which lifts the individual to new and previously unattainable levels of success while edifying the community through personal and practical involvement in the everyday lives of its members. A successful biblical community creates and celebrates successful individuals, and successful individuals will reach higher levels of success when participating in and supported by a biblical community. We are all better off when supported by a biblical community, and others around us are better off when we actively engage the community and seek to lift others up. It’s a win-win situation.
While another young lady and a couple of women were certainly influential in Lexie’s success, it’s important to recognize the role that the men in the community played. In a culture that over sexualizes girls and struggles with gender roles, Lexie got to experience a weekend with Christian men that actively worked to create an environment in which she was safe, valued, and accepted as she was for who she was. She heard kind, encouraging, and affirming words from men within her community. She saw men willing to put their own needs and wants aside in order to assist her because they were willingly choosing to value her success above their own. She experienced men expressing affection and concern for her in appropriate, non-physical, and biblical ways. She was able to experience what it’s like to have men appreciate her simply for who she is rather than what she looks like and to be uplifted as a young lady rather than limited to the role of ‘just a girl.’ There’s no questioning that an experience like this will help shape her concept of masculinity and her expectations for future men in her life. Our society often classifies masculinity as toxic and harmful, but biblical community allows young ladies the opportunity to see masculinity as God designed it and helps ensure that she’ll never settle for anything less. Godly men don’t sexualize her, and they don’t create an environment in which she feels threatened, devalued, or objectified. Godly men don’t make her feel like just a girl; they lift her up and help her find strength she didn’t know she had. Godly men are willing to put aside their own needs in order to meet hers and because they value and appreciate her. Godly men treat her with respect, compassion, and affection, and they always celebrate her success. Godly men will help lead her to higher levels of success that she could reach without them. This is what she should expect from men, and she should know that she doesn’t have to settle for less. A biblical community with strong, godly men upholds and acts on biblical standards for manhood and helps ensure that our young ladies never settle for less than godliness from the men in their lives.
A child’s first deer is a treasured moment and a memory that will last forever. But there is so much more that happens on those weekends in deer camp. I’m abundantly thankful that Lexie Lou shared this experience with us, and I’m even more thankful to be a part of a community that is so incredibly uplifting. In the outdoors, that community is my Blast & Cast family. If you’re an outdoorsman, I encourage you to join the Blast & Cast family and find a role in order to help lift others up.
But, in my hometown, the community that plays out such an important role is my local church. The role of the local church in our lives is of immeasurable importance. It’s not just a place to go on Sunday mornings, it’s a family to live life with. If you’re not ‘all in’ at your local church, I encourage to take the leap. Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back. If the doors are open, be there. If there’s an opportunity to serve, take advantage of it. When you have a need, make it known. When you see a need, meet it. It’s worth it, and you’ll be better off because of it