We were new pastors in a small backwoods community. I was young (26), God was moving, and things were happening. Yet it seemed that for every step forward we were pushing against the very gates of hell.
It seemed to come to a climatic point one summer evening in 2001 as we sat out under the stars in our hot tub surrounded by dark silhouettes of jagged mountains. In that moment, I swear the darkness took on corporeal form. You could almost feel the brushing of demonic wings. A wolf howled. Our skin crawled, neck hairs stood up on end. And a Black Rider screamed in the distance. Sara started hyperventilating and I felt like a deer in the headlights.
After a few minutes we finally started praying. And let me tell you, we prayed. I really thought I had what it took to do this pastor-job, but at that moment I was absolutely overwhelmed. I felt small, inconsequential, not up for the task.
A few days later, I’m in our basement chasing down a bad smell. The search leads me to a closet in one of the kids' bedrooms and upon opening the door, I see what looks like a little blob of mustard-coloured goo. With no thought, I stick my bare foot into the “stuff”. It’s cat diarrhea.
“You idiot! Why'd you do that?!” I couldn’t believe I just did what I just did. Shocking! It was fresh, with remnants of hair, mice guts, and sour milk. Disgusting.
At that moment, in the blink of an eye, I heard an almost audible voice say:
“Angels know you as Shit-foot”.
Yes, you heard correct.
I knew immediately that it was God who spoke. Never once doubted it. Within seconds, those words instilled in me a level of confidence and strength that would carry us through some of the most difficult days of learning and growing in our pastor-vocation.
It would be fun to end the story there: and they lived happily every after.
But I’ll be nice and give you some background.
When I was a teenager living in the small community of Bella Coola, I vividly remember an old fella' named Clayton Mack. He would often come out to our basketball games, and I’d see him sitting up there enjoying the action. He looked like a caricature from “Grumpy Old Men”, being well into his 90's at the time.
Clayton Mack was one of the most prolific Grizzly bear hunters - ever. He had guided hunts for some of the biggest monsters ever bagged, had survived bear attacks, and even claimed seeing a Sasquatch (to this day many believe he actually saw "something"). A member of the Nuxalk Nation, Clayton was an expert in his field, who would go deep into the wilderness of the BC Coast in search of the behemoth Grizzlies that lived out there and grew enormous feeding on spawning salmon.
Hunters gave him a nickname: Shitfoot. I guess he was always sticking his foot in crap (I could certainly relate on that level as a new pastor). Massive piles of berry ridden manure just beckoned to be stepped into. Except for Clayton, it was always with intent, hoping to discover what the bear was eating, how close it might be (freshness), and what kind of animal they were tracking (mature, sow, etc.).
The point: Clayton was putting his foot in bear crap, because he was the hunter, not the hunted. He was the predator, not the prey.
So there I am, in this season of great challenge, feeling overwhelmed, putting my foot in s#@&, stirring up hornet’s nests, and feeling the fool. In one word, one God-given name, my perspective completely shifts. The words are life to my soul, clarity to my sight, and strength to my spirit.
I am the hunter. I am the predator. The darkness is running from me. I may be wandering but I’m not lost. Let’s get this done.