My legs burned as I churned through the black water. Whenever I am walking in the swamp, especially in unfamiliar waters, I am always on edge. The walk out is always the most harrowing part of the hunt for me. When you’ve been in the water for several cold hours you start to get comfortable with your footing. Standing in the same area for a while makes the ground beneath you become more dense and stable. But when it’s time to make the trek back out of the swamp onto dry ground things can get interesting. One wrong step can send you into the freezing water and really make things interesting.
One particular hunt we were packing up to head out of the swamp after a successful morning. From the moments before dawn when we had ducks land within ten yards of us up until mid-day we had seen plenty of action. But we were tired and ready for a break. We loaded up all the gear and started the slow trudge back through the black water toward the shoreline.
It was only about a one hundred and fifty yard walk through the swamp, but the water was better than waist deep and that makes movement more difficult. Additionally, we were all loaded down with guns, bags, and decoys. I was carrying the platform. The platform was a metal stand that we attached to the tree so the dog had a place to sit out of the water. It was heavy and cumbersome, and wading through the mud and water was a struggle. With all the gear and equipment I felt some fifty pounds heavier.
With each step I was careful to ensure my foot had a firm place to land before I stepped forward with the opposite leg. It was a slow go. As I approached the shoreline my confidence strengthened. I was nearly out of it. There may be no better feeling than the moment you hit the dry land and step out of the swamp having avoided the dreaded stumble that would result in soaking you and all your gear, making the rest of the day unbearable.
Suddenly, the man ahead of me turned back and said “Watch the hole!” as he pointed to a spot in the water. I moved right to avoid the ditch. I, in turn, relayed the message to the guy behind me.
My arms were screaming at me by this point. Having to navigate the swamp and keep the gear above the water was exhausting. My shoulders and forearms burned.
After several more maneuvers my feet finally stepped onto the dry shore line and set the gear down. The relief was so refreshing. The moment when the weight was lifted and I could stop striving.
This is life for some of us. Are you carrying a heavy load you can’t put down? Maybe you are carrying the weight of poor decisions from your past. Maybe it’s a hurt in your life that you just can’t seem to let go of. When you walk through life carrying the weight of guilt and shame, you are in a fight. It’s a battle just to take a step forward.
We are all in a fight. Some of us ignore the shots and the smoke and hope that it will be over soon. Other’s are fighting with everything they have in them but struggle to see the victory. There may even be a man among you who is resting in between battles. But the fact remains, we are all in a battle.
We all battle the enemy of shame. Not one of us is perfect. We all have days and words we wish we could take back. We may even have made decisions that feel have left us in a hole with no hope. That is shame’s greatest tactic; the isolation chamber. Shame thrives in darkness.
Shame is not undefeated however. It has a glaring weakness. Just as a single match can defeat darkness, you have a tool that can send shame running. The sure-fire knockout punch that knocks shame out cold is vulnerability.
For such a seemingly innocent word it sure is terrifying, but I promise you, it’s shadow is much larger than its shape. Vulnerability is simply sharing your struggle with someone you trust. It’s letting someone else in on your story. The simple act of telling another person what you’re facing destroys shame. You cannot win your battle alone. As men we feel programmed to be self sufficient be strong enough to stand on our own. But every great warrior needs an army. Every man needs a battle buddy. You need someone who’s got your back.
If you are going to be a man who matters and live a life that is significant - if you are ever going to find the accomplishment and satisfaction you are really chasing - then you must be willing to let someone else in on your fight.