Like the Deer That Yearns

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017 in wholeness | 2 Comments
Like the Deer That Yearns

Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my soul is yearning
for you, my God.

My soul is yearning for God,
the God of my life;
when can I enter and see
the face of God?

–Psalm 42–

I was standing between the deer and a creek. She wanted to enter the woods and make her way to the water, but she was afraid. She had two choices: wait patiently and keep trying, or look for another way to enter, for deer do not stop yearning for their running streams.

Yearning. That word describes a deep longing that underlies everything else, a longing that at times can be tinged with sadness but also is tender and compassionate. A longing that often is associated with loss. I think of Henry David Thoreau’s statement in Walden:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

I don’t know what the deer was thinking. Now, looking at the photo, I wonder which of us was really looking out, and which of us was really looking in? Were we both yearning? And if so, could we both, in the end, have been yearning for the same thing? Could we both have been wondering, in effect, “When can I enter and see the face of God?” And would we recognize that face if we saw it? Perhaps I was looking right at it when I took the picture. And perhaps the deer was looking right at it, too.

We often think it is extremely hard to really discover and know God, and that the barriers are too immense for most of us. Maybe, in reality, the barrier is no more than the equivalent of a flimsy barbed wire fence, magnified by our fears and by our limited world views. Maybe all we need is yearning, and the patience and determination that it fosters. That young deer in the photo ran away after I snapped the shutter, but not for long. Her yearning was greater than her fears. Later on, she entered and found what she was seeking. I was grateful for the lesson.

Photo: Whitetail deer, Marathon, Wisconsin, August 8, 2011
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  1. Michael Arloski
    June 8, 2017

    David….this piece would sound lovely in spoken prose. Consider podcasts!

    Thanks again for some soul touching.


    • David Backes
      June 9, 2017

      Glad you liked it, Michael! Interesting idea, too. I’ve never thought about it. Don’t know if I want to try to figure out all the ins and outs of that and take away from my book projects, but it is an interesting idea and I won’t rule it out.


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