Sunday, June 22, 2014

Don't fear, Deer

This week I ventured down to Pittsburgh on my own for two back-to-back days of oxygen therapy. This weekly trip has become my normal routine. Usually my Mom accompanies me. We spend the night in a hotel, infuse my body with copious amounts of God's good oxygen and even include some girlie T. J. Maxx and Marshall's shopping. Our new routine suits us quite well and I enjoy our trips together.
But this week I came by myself. Mom is in the throes of a backyard overhaul, painting the deck and ripping out bushes. The task is lofty and complete dedication to the effort is needed to get the house summer ready. So, in lieu of our weekly trip to Pittsburgh, Mom opted to stay home and make more progress on her work. 
I don't mind traveling by myself. Actually it makes me feel grown up. Although I do believe that feeling as though you are grown up is a surefire sign that you are not at all grown up. Oh well, solo travel gives me that sense of independence that leads one to believe they are very much adult. 
Even though I may feel "grown up", I still have hesitancies about being by myself. Namely, my physical security. I'm not one to be overly scared or see the danger lurking around every corner. I'm not convinced that every bush is a burglar and every loud sound is an invasion. But still I know that there are serious security concerns to be aware of, especially for young women. Abductions and assaults really do happen. Women must be mindful of keeping their wits about them, not putting themselves in precarious situations. I try to be reasonably cautious about where I go and where I should not go when I'm by myself, and especially when it comes to where and when I run outdoors. 
I've run a few times on wooded trails by myself but after hearing a few horror stories I've decided that more populated areas are safer for the solo runner. This morning while staying in Pittsburgh I wanted to go out and take a run. While staying in this particular hotel, my home away from home, I always venture just a mile down the road to run along a particular trail. It isn't exactly in the woods but it is relatively serene and definitely wooded. On a quiet morning a runner could go a mile or two without seeing another soul. When my Mom is along for the trip she waits at a picnic pavilion for me while I run but today she couldn't be my security guard and I vacillated over whether or not to venture out alone. After some internal dialogue I decided to lace up my sneakers and hit the trail.
I saw a few other people in the parking lot getting into their cars but other than that the path ahead looked deserted. I set out west with my ear buds in place and my Pandora put on play. Within minutes I was surrounded by nothing but trees. All of a sudden a thought struck me: bears. Bears are everywhere and especially in woods. What if a bear came out of the woods and confronted me on the trail? What would I do? There was no one in sight. No one to help me, call 911 or scare off my grizzly attacker. My heart started pounding faster and faster. And it wasn't because of the pace of my run. Fear sent my heart sprinting. 
Then I looked up and there she stood. No, not a bear…. A deer. Out of the thick brush to my left came a stately, regal deer. She was alone, just like all of my other deer encounters. She stopped, stood stalk still and then turned her head and gazed at me. 
I stopped, too. I didn't want to scare her. I didn't want her to charge me (do deer charge humans?). And most importantly I didn't want her to wake up any bears in the vicinity! 
We both stood there for a few moments. Neither of us moved a muscle. It seemed as though we were barely breathing. The deer didn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so I turned to run back toward my car. Usually deer don't scare me but with my bear fears already very much alive even the sight of a deer spooked me.
As I ran back in the direction I had come I decided to turn my head back to see if the deer was still there. There she was, slowly making her way across the path into the brush on the other side. She didn't appear startled or phased by my presence or the sound of my pounding feet against the gravel. She peacefully, gracefully climbed into the wood and disappeared from view. 
At that moment I was struck by the overwhelming presence of God. Once again I was stopped dead in my tracks…. Don't run in fear. Don't let anxiety rule and define your actions. Continue forward in peace and assurance that God will number your steps and protect you on the journey. 
With a renewed energy and peace I turned back around and started running again, away from my car and the parking lot, and deeper into the woods. God had sent that deer to me as a reminder that He would protect me and guide my steps. I just needed to trust Him and run in the confidence of His protection.

The decision to keep running certainly didn't appear monumental. After all I was only running a few miles, not finishing a marathon or running for some grand cause. But what that run meant for my soul was immensely important to me. By continuing to run I chose to continue to surrender my life to Christ, casting off fear and trepidation so that I could run with faith planted securely in Almighty God. To keep running I had to relinquish my grip on my own physical security and entrust the preservation of my life into the  care and concern of God.
For me the simple decision to keep running along the path was a surrender of my fear and my worries. The deer sent to me by God was my reminder that to follow Him I must yield all of myself to Him, even my inner hesitations and fears so I can run with wholehearted devotion and dedication to bring glory to the King of Kings. 

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