I have recently been chronicling some of the changes wrought by our move to the Hill Country. One of the true blessings is looking out the back windows and seeing deer grazing. Sometimes there are just one or two, sometimes a half dozen or more.
We delight that we are living so closely and harmoniously with wild things–songbirds, squirrels, and these deer that are among the loveliest of God’s created things.
My husband Rick decided to start feeding them. At first he thought he could do some sort of psych job on them. He thought if he fed them food especially for them, they wouldn’t eat the shrubbery we are planting to beautify the place. The joke is on him, it turns out. They eat the corn he puts out, and they’re also happy to eat the geraniums as salad to go with it.
He’s made a ritual of it. He walks out with a red scoop of deer corn in his hand. He spreads it out on the ground and then bangs on the scoop to alert them that it’s suppertime. A la Pavlov, he believes that he is conditioning the deer to come find the food when they hear the thud on the bucket. Neutral stimulus becomes conditioned stimulus.
It seems to be working! Whereas they would keep a good distance away when anyone was outside, now they come into the yard and stare at us while we’re standing out there.
As I was in worship and prayer this morning, this image of the deer coming to feed in the yard came to mind. I thought first, of course, of the well-known Psalm that speaks of our longing for God:
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1).
This is a marvelous metaphor: The believer is like a wild deer, who must spend its days seeking food and water, and finds provision and rest once it finds the right source.
Deer, while agile and quick-moving, are pursued and eaten by many predators, including humans. Believers are like a deer in that they are often prey for the enemy.
Jeremiah lamented that Israel had stopped following God’s ways and receiving his provision and protection. He wrote,
“Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer” (Lam 1:7).
Without submitting ourselves to his watchful care and leadership, we wander around the metaphoric wilderness searching in vain for an adequate supply of daily bread and places to hide from danger while we eat it.
But when we humbly embrace our desperate need for God, we find our way into his daily care for us. Like those deer, who were skittish and untrusting at first, we become bolder to approach and ask for his help.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Deer are swift and graceful. When we follow in his footsteps, we too become nimble and sure-footed, instead of trying to navigate on our own and stumbling through life:
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19).
I’ll close by citing another image related to deer that brings the analogy to another level. This is Isaiah’s prophetic promise to those who seek the Lord wholeheartedly:
“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow” (Isaiah 35:5-7).
We are given the opportunity to live in God’s order, a spiritual and natural habitat where we can truly flourish and be unafraid. There is healing, new sight, new sound, restored movement and speech. Living water in springs and streams. No longer afraid of monsters in the night.
Praise the Lord for his wonderful gifts of goodness, mercy and tender care.