Allow me to re-tell a poignant story for Thanksgiving Day.
I remember one particular Thanksgiving Day during a deer season more than any other because of a sight I saw and a lesson I learned. At 3 p.m., I had taken a stand where I knew deer would cross later that evening. I was full of expectancy and excitement for the appearance of deer at any time. However, I was suddenly surprised by the long, drawn-out bellow of a coonhound way down in the hollow.
“BA – O O O O – A – O O O O O O O O O O O – A – OOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Grrr! Ack, ack ——- grrrrrr!”
Great time of day, I thought! What is that hound doing around here? Surely, coon hunters are not running their dogs now! It was ruining my hunt! Fifteen minutes passed by, and the whole hillside resounded with the bellows of that hollering hound. I had never heard such dogged intensity.
At 4:30, I finally gave up simply because I had heard for over an hour “BA—OOO—A—OOO—A—OOO,” and it was driving me nuts.
However, the curious thing that occurred to me about all the wailing which reverberated deep from that hollow was that it never got any closer neither did it get any farther away. Just as I was about to walk away, my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to go looking for that hound, and see why he was bellowing and growling.
It was not long before I found him, and what a sight it was!
This coonhound had wedged itself through a very narrow opening into a hollow log. To make matters worse, in an apparent effort to get out, he had forced his head up through a small hole on top, and could not pull his head back through the hole. He was in an awkward, contorted, and painful posture.
This old dog was trapped, and was literally dying. Judging by the looks of things, he had been trapped for one to two days. His incessant bellowing was a cry for help since he knew that I was nearby. I was probably his only chance for escape.
With difficulty, I ripped enough of the tree apart so the dog could be freed. You should have seen him. After shaking himself vigorously, he jumped all over me, and licked on me real good. I took that to mean, “GEE, THANKS, BUDDY!” He gulped down the sandwich I gave him, and a Snickers bar for desert.
But, remembering the sight of that dog trapped and dying still breaks my heart, for it typifies in a most poignant way the dire spiritual straits of the human condition.
All around us are people trapped and dying. Their lives characterize a heated pursuit of sin. And, sooner or later, they become trapped. They struggle to free themselves. Yet, they are wedged in so tightly that escape is seemingly impossible.
Then, sets in the terror of dying in such a trap. They call out for help. Others hear their pleas for help. Yet, these others only wish the noise would cease, because it is disturbing and discomforting. AFTER ALL, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN HUNT ABOUT WHICH TO BE CONCERNED.
But, thank God for the Savior who has heard their calls. The Savior goes searching for the trapped and dying, for it is He who has the necessary compassion for their trapped and dying situation. The Savior stoops to break apart the trap, and victoriously sets them free from a life of slow death.
Apostle Paul clarified it, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.”
Let every born-again believer in Jesus Christ remember our spiritual circumstance was not so different from that of the trapped and dying coonhound. But, we were saved and set free by our Savior Jesus Christ, who is full of love and compassion for us.
That coonhound had been at the point of death. But, when set free from his wooden tomb, he made it quite clear how grateful he was. As a matter fact, I could not get rid of him!
By contrast, it is worth noting how Thanksgiving Day should include a reverent appreciation to God for setting us free from our own trapped and dying circumstances.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.