Readings for Sunday, June 23:
Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)
1 Samuel 4:12-22
Verse 10 in Psalm 46 (“Be still and know that I am God”) is one I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I’ve been at a Gathering/Retreat with the Anamchara Fellowship this week, as a Companion of this group. This year it’s being held at the Community of the Transfiguration, near Cincinnati, Ohio. From Compline Thursday to Compline Friday was a silent retreat. We were asked in one of the exercises to ponder the things we find most difficult to release from our grip that stand in the way of being more wholly present to God, ask ourselves why we fear letting go, and in the deep silence of the retreat, ask God to take them from our grasp.
For me, the things I seem most reticent to release tend to be things where it feels that the loss of them put me in danger of feeling very alone with my choices. As is often the case with the Holy Spirit, she seems to know I tend to pay a great deal of attention to the animal kingdom.
As I sat in the rock garden with a large crucifix, I was half mentally berating myself because I wasn’t looking at Jesus, I was distracted by this little fawn wandering around the grounds…seemingly by himself. He circled around, obviously looking for his mother. I was looking for the doe, too. Why was this little one by himself? Had he wandered off because of the traffic? Worse yet, was the mother not there because she was dead? “In town” is a risky place for deer. There are just all sorts of dangers that are not hard-wired in the “being a deer” circuits.
The fawn kept meandering in half-circles and figure eights, looking for his mother. His tail only flicked occasionally in a half-hearted manner. Finally, he did the only thing it knew fawns know how to do in such a situation…lie down in the tall grass, wait quietly and watch. I probably watched this fawn for 20 minutes. Others on retreat even walked by the spot, not seeing the fawn from an even closer vantage point. I had to really look to continue to see his head poking out of the tall grass, but every now and then I’d see the head move or an ear twitch.
Suddenly, the fawn leaped up from the grass, running with intention, lickety split. This was not the circling and wandering as before, but a straight line, double-time, his little tail lashing the air like it was beating a drum. I tried to lead with my eyes to see where he was headed. Finally, in another clump of tall grass I made out the outline of a doe. Mom had been nearby all along, and my worry was for naught. Junior had thought he was on a solo adventure, and it turned out Mom had his eye on him the whole time.
So it is with God, I think. I am 53 years old, but to God, I am still a fawn, and haven’t even had my baby spots fade yet. I think I am off on a big solo adventure. I think I am alone. It took this fawn to remind me I am not, that Mom is always nearby, although often camouflaged. This fawn is far better than I at knowing when to simply lie down, wait, and look until I can catch a glimpse of Mom.
I had also wondered earlier, “Wow, there are these big clumps of tall grass here. They really ought to mow.” I now realize those clumps were there intentionally. Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect the sisters at the Community of the Transfiguration were providing a certain amount of sanctuary for these suburban deer. It’s a reminder that when we are in a position where our job is to “be still,” that others who have been before us might have already provided places for us to do that, and we should gratefully accept those opportunities.
When have you discovered sites of refuge already in place, when your job was to simply be still and know God is God?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid