I walked in the quiet through the trees, with my footsteps and my breathing to keep me company. Like a butterfly, my thoughts flitted from topic to topic, never resting on any one too long. I moved quickly, once again in a race with the sun on my Unicoi Lake walk. I rounded a curve on the backside of the lake in a low-lying area where the shore meets the underbrush. It is one of the cooler spots on the walk because of the canopy of leaves overhead and the closeness of the water. On this day, in the summer, cool did not exist. The air was still and heavy with moisture causing me to drip, even though I was only half way around the lake. My mind was occupied on things other than walking, like how soon I could finish and get to the shower, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It stopped me in my tracks, mainly because I walk in bear country; however, I was interested to see what was lurking just off the trail. It was then that I saw a doe with her head down, drinking from the lake. Small ripples rolled across the water as she silently drank. Just as I stopped, her head came up because of my sound or, quite possibly, my smell. She did not run as deer usually do. She stood like a statue. She watched me and I her, our eyes locked in curious conversation. I cooed and talked to her as if she was a baby, trying to let her know that I thought she was beautiful and that I would not approach her. Soon, after standing for some time, my eyes adjusted to the fact that there was another deer just behind some brush to her left. I am always stunned at how completely camouflage works. Trying to make out the outline of the second deer that blended into the background was like doing one of those hidden image puzzles. One minute it was just woods, the next there was a deer. The two of them did not seem to be in any hurry to leave. Neither was I.
The scripture came to mind, “as the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you.” Here I was, face to face with these beautiful creatures, just a few yards away as they came to get a drink. The evening was still as hot as the day, they were thirsty, and I happened upon their evening stroll to the watering hole. It was breathtaking, and not just because I had been walking. It was a simple scene, yet my soul leapt. Like the scripture says, I was filled with longing to be as at peace as these deer. They were God’s illustration of what it means to thirst for him. I was weary that day, more that just physically. My mind had been restless, even as I walked along in the great outdoors I hardly noticed the scenery. Then God stopped me in my tracks. He showed me how my heart is supposed to look. How still. How at peace. How it is supposed to long for him. I needed a reminder and once again he provided it…and in a most exquisite way.
I moved along, leaving the deer to drink more. I also felt refreshed myself, having been renewed by the nearness of wildlife and the message they delivered to my heart. I finished my walk stronger than when I started, more at peace. The frantic pace of life was forgotten for a few moments in time. The lesson of longing for his presence fresh in my mind, I wondered how deer so fully trust the woods for shelter and nourishment and the lake to quench their thirst. Some would say instinct alone keeps them and that may be true. But I like to think that trusting God to care for them comes so naturally that they haven’t ever thought about any other way of doing things. Now if I could just follow their example.

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