In 1939, my mother was engaged to my father. During their engagement, she bought my father a new shotgun. For the last 81 years, that shotgun has remained in our family. When my dad passed away, my brother was given dad’s Winchester Model 70 30-06, and I was given his Remington Model 31 12-gauge pump shotgun.
That old shotgun has lived under the protection of a trigger lock and has not been in use for many years. The rubber recoil pad on the end of the stock began to decay and crumble many years ago. I put off adding a new one since I no longer hunt like I used to. But just this week, I decided to take the shotgun to a local gunsmith to have a new recoil pad installed. When I handed the shotgun to the gunsmith, and he looked at the decayed recoil pad, smiled, and said, “That won’t work.” In the coming weeks, I will get a phone call to come and pick up the shotgun with a new recoil pad installed. The shotgun will be ready to hunt if I ever get the urge to go afield again.
The wear on the old shotgun’s receiver and barrel and its dented, yet beautifully seasoned old wood stock shows years of use. The marks and wear tell a story of a father and his two sons walking through cotton patches of the Central Valley in California, making a drive to flush pheasants. Of burger stands in a small town laughing while eating hamburgers, fries, and drinking chocolate milkshakes. They speak of riding in the back of a '59 Chevy pickup eating dust on some back road as our dad drove us to yet another spot to hunt while my brother and I drank a Royal Crown Cola and felt like little men.
My father’s shotgun reminded me of our lives. Most of us have lived a lot of life, and the wear of life shows up in varying ways. In the process of growing older, the recoil pad on our emotions can become thin, crumbled, and of no use. A spiritual gunsmith might look at the condition of our life and say, “That won’t work.” A healthy response to life no longer is taking place because we have lost our ability to insulate our response to the impact of unexpected change or harsh words that people speak. All of this is especially challenging when people and culture seem to be going crazy.
Each of us needs to replace our emotional recoil pad from time-to-time. If we don’t, every unkind word or unwelcomed action will leave a bruise, and we will wince in pain at life each time something negative takes place instead of being able to absorb its impact, move on, and enjoy the hunt.