It’s been a long couple of weeks, for a lot of reasons. Between some changes at work, several conversations with friends who have really hard things going on in their lives, and health concerns for people I care about, I came home feeling pretty tired yesterday. I decided to go on a walk to clear my head, listen to some music, pray, and hopefully rejuvenate.
Wednesday may have been the last day of summer, but Kansas has yet to realize it. Yesterday’s high was at least in the upper 80s, and it was still pretty warm, even around 6 p.m. There’s a mass of really nice paved trails not far from my apartment, so I started walking, enjoying warmth, sunshine, and chance to not do anything.
About fifteen minutes into my walk, I came to a section of the trail where the path runs along a creek and dips down beneath the overhang of some large trees. The golden sunlight of sunset came down in streaks through the branches, and there were bunches of white flowers sprouting along either side of the path. Through the branches I could see a couple of ducks fluttering in and out of the creek.
The beauty caught me, stopped me, and I pulled my phone out to take a few pictures. In my head, I planned a Facebook post that would say something like “Grateful for unexpected beauty after a long day.” If that was the only beauty I’d seen last night, it would have still been a sweet reminder of God’s goodness.
I put my phone away and rounded the bend in the trail, only to stop once again, stunned by the beauty. Not twenty feet in front of me, a deer grazed in the long grass.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of deer in my time, but generally I don’t expect to see them right across the street from a well-populated suburban neighborhood, and I expect them to bound away when a human comes within twenty feet of them. This one didn’t. It raised its head, watching me, and then went back to its grazing, not bothered at all by my presence.
There was another reason, though, that seeing the deer meant so much. Earlier this summer, I was having a lot of disturbing dreams, many of them involving various wild animals such as tigers, alligators, bears, snakes, stingrays, spiders—you name the creepy, scary animal, I probably had a dream about it. I often have vivid dreams, and most of the time they don’t bother me, but these were starting to get to me. I started praying for protection and a sense of God’s presence while I slept, and that helped, to some extent, but I was still waking up tired.
Then about a month ago, I had a different kind of dream. In the dream, it was sunrise, and I was walking on a path through the woods. Three or four deer sprang from the brush and bounded down the trail away from me. When I returned to the gate at the beginning of the trail, an elk was standing on the other side, watching me. I was a little afraid because it was so big, but I was in awe. When I wrote down my memory of the dream afterward, I noted that there was a stillness, a holiness, about the moment.
The deer was such a peaceful animal compared to the others I had been dreaming about and reminded me of verses such as Psalm 18:33: “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” The dream came at a time when I needed some reassurance from God, and to me it felt like a reminder that God was in control, that I could trust Him with all of my concerns.
So when I saw the deer last night, I wasn’t just seeing a deer. I was seeing a reassurance, a promise. It felt like God had placed the deer there right at that exact moment in order to say, I’m here. Trust me.
He is with us, friends. Even in the darkness—or maybe especially in the darkness—He is with us.
Twenty minutes later, as I passed the spot where I had seen the deer on my way back to my apartment, I hoped that, somehow, it might still be there—just as a sign of confirmation of what God had shown me.
It wasn’t there, of course. I walked on back to my apartment, a little disappointed, but trying to remind myself to hold onto the truth of His presence and the need to trust Him. I was praying a little too along the way, asking for grace to infuse every difficult situation that was on my heart.
When I neared the gate that led back to my apartment complex, a woman was pushing a stroller with a little girl in it across the grass toward the gate. I walked a little ahead, punched in the gate code, and held it open for them. I said something by way of greeting, but she shook her head, indicating that she didn’t speak English.
As she reached me, she pointed to the box where I had punched in the code and said, “Number?” I told her the code, and she smiled widely. Then, taking my hand between both hers, she kissed it.
She pushed the stroller on through the gate, and I was left standing there, kissed by grace.