On Columbus Day I went up to Cataloochee in the Great Smokies National Park to hike and see the elk. You may be like my husband and think (or say!) “Elk, in North Carolina? Elk aren’t in North Carolina.”
Actually, they used to be. They were hunted into extinction more than a century ago, but were reintroduced in 2001 in a remote valley in the NC mountains. Tourists drive 30-40 minutes over a mountain, on a one and a half lane, bumpy and rutted gravel road, with countless switch backs, to reach the park in the Cataloochee Valley.
Once there, in addition to old churches, cabins, barns, and stunning scenery, you can see the elk. Rutting season is the fall, so I could hear the bull elk bugling warnings to each other to protect their harems. (What rangers actually call the small herds of female elk and youth!)
I did some hiking and then went to one of the fields to wait for the elk to come off of the mountain and out of the woods to graze, as is their habit each early morning and evening. As I waited I contemplated the concept of restoration.
Humans hunted elk into extinction for food, for sport. Now there is an entire program dedicated to bringing them back.
Having recently talked about the restoration we find through life in Christ, I went to Ephesians 2 (CEB).
At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. (vs. 1-2)
I imagine people a century ago killing elk right and left. “They taste good!” “They are fun to hunt!” “They have great antlers!” “Their heads will look great mounted on the wall!”
At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else. (vs. 3)
What am I hunting that is outside of God’s will? What trophies do I want that are meaningless in the long run?
However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. (vs. 4)
What is God restoring to me now, or what would God like to restore in my life? How do I intentionally work with God to make that happen?
You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus. You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. (vs. 5-8)
How am I living as if I were indeed saved by grace? How am I living as if I know that God will give me greater riches than any trophies I can hang on my wall or earn for myself?