Aaron was little when we moved from our tiny rental mobile home off Netarts Bay up to a small house in the wilderness above Beaver (Oregon) along the Nestucca River. Here we could have a garden, animals and more room for our growing family. We were the last house on the road before it became a dirt logging road and disappeared into the coastal mountains. Remote and isolated was an understatement. We loved it.
David worked as a Paramedic at Tillamook Ambulance. His scheduled shift started at 5:00 p.m. and ended two days later at 5:00 p.m. This meant I was alone quite a bit with only our little three year old and myself to handle the chores around the house and the farm. I typically didn’t mind this. I worked part-time at the local grade school as an aide and kept myself busy volunteering at the church in Beaver. There were always things to do at home with a busy toddler and animals to care for.
Then one day fear arrived to permeate my life! A murder occurred at a home down the road. While they did catch the criminal, my quiet and peaceful wilderness existence was shaken. I found myself looking over my shoulder when outside working and watching out windows when inside. I spent hours planning various escape routes with Aaron in case someone came to the house with ill intent. I knew where all the guns were and visualized myself having to use them at any given moment. When David stayed home for a few days it wasn’t as bad since then I felt safe and protected, but when he went to work, my mind formulated all types of frightening scenarios. I started not sleeping at night. I kept myself awake to get up every hour and walk through the house, checking doors and windows. I stood in the hallway and watched to make sure that Aaron was safe as he slept in his bed. As the nights dragged on and on, my relationship with fear took me deeper and deeper into places I did not want to go.
One night, alone in our dark and quiet house, I pulled back the curtain on the bedroom window and looked outside. A bright full moon illuminated the entire back yard. There! Something moved! A shape came from the woods behind the house. It slowly made its way towards the back yard. My heart stopped! The taste of fear rose up in my mouth. I couldn’t catch my breath. I wanted to look away or run away but I was frozen in that time and place. Then I recognized the big brown body of a doe deer that frequented our farm. I watched as she carefully and gracefully jumped the back fence and began to munch on some flowers. Beautiful and calm. She ate with no fear at all showing in her body language. I learned about deer from taking trips to the woods with my Dad when I was young. I know that if a deer is afraid or startled it has a certain stance and is always looking around to see what might be coming that could bring it harm. Alert and watchful. This deer had none of those mannerisms….she just ate…unafraid.
As I watched this beautiful creature a realization came over me. If there was anything to be afraid of outside, the doe would not be in the yard so calmly enjoying her nighttime snack. Peace flowed through me. First springing from my spirit, then into my body and finally my mind. Peace knocked on fear’s door and it opened just a crack. I went back to bed and experienced a deep sleep for the first time in weeks. The next morning, I awoke refreshed and ready for the day. I looked out the bedroom window to the back yard. The doe? Gone? Had I dreamed her into existence? Or had she really been there? I wondered.
That night after putting Aaron to bed, I started what had now become my usual routine. Staying awake to pace and walk through the house were almost normal since fear moved into my life. I tried to go to bed only to get up again and resume my patrol. It wasn’t long, however, that when I looked out the bedroom window, I saw the same doe, in the same place, calmly eating just as she had done the night before. This time the peacefulness washed over me quicker and I was able to lie down and immediately fall asleep. Her presence outside the house was a calming reminder that there must not be anything to fear or she wouldn’t be there.
The next night, David had to work an extra shift so I was home alone again. This time I approached the evening with none of the trepidation of the previous weeks. I almost looked forward to putting Aaron to bed so I could watch for the appearance of my doe. I pulled the curtains aside so I could view the back yard clearly. I did not have to wait long. She appeared; slowly, carefully, and calmly strolling towards the house. This time she did not stop to eat. She went past the back yard, and around the side of the house. I quickly moved to the living room window. I strained in the dark to find her shape in the shadows. There she was. Going past the barn and then down the hill towards the river. I watched until I couldn’t see her anymore. She disappeared into the darkness. My heart stood still. She was gone. What should I do? Suddenly my heart filled with an unexplained and consuming sense of peace and contentment. It flooded my body and my soul. It removed the last bit of fear hidden there. Free at last. Free from the fear that had gripped and held me for weeks. God’s spirit spoke to me in that moment as clear as if a person was standing next to me in the room,
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God” Isaiah 41:10
The words of the most beloved Psalm of David immersed my soul…
Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
To this day, I firmly believe that God placed that doe in my life during my very darkest time. I had allowed fear to consume me and God sent me a vivid and very real reminder. He is with me. There is nothing to fear.
There is a quote I love from the movie, Hunger Games, which I now think of whenever I encounter fear.
The only emotion stronger than fear is hope!
The fear I had allowed to move into my heart had eventually consumed all other emotions. It removed love, hope and faith and replaced them with doubt, disbelief and anxiety. Like a battle raging between good and evil going on inside me…but of course…because God is God…faith, love and hope win in the end.
In the Message Bible, towards the end of I Corinthians 13 it says,
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t last long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
I would hope and pray that if you are struggling with fear or doubt in your life, that you would claim the promise of hope and trust…and love. Hold strong to the assurance that these three will always be stronger than your fears. A trifecta of power and victory. Always!