Finding Faith in an Empty Meadow

IMG_1176.jpg

What do you believe in?  Destiny? God? A greater power? Science? Coincidence?  If you are still reading this, then my guess is you 'believe' in something.  Whether you practice your faith in God, or destiny, or both, you can probably agree that "faith" is a vital part of our human existence.  It gives us a beacon, it gives us a purpose, it can lead us through the dark times, but it sure isn't easy.  Nothing good ever is.  Doubt can creep in, but faith will often prove its power when you least expect it...

When my family and I moved to a new home last summer, I became a little bit obsessed with searching the back yard for deer. Our yard gives way to a meadow, flanked by an untouched forest. A total deer hangout. The days came and went, weeks passed, and many creatures came to visit, but never a deer. I would spend hours each day at the kitchen sink window (as mothers of young children tend to do) scanning the meadow. Nothing. Playing in the leaves, I would have my little ones help search the ground for deer tracks. “I know they have been here in the night,” I would say. But, a bit of doubt had begun to seep in. Finally, I said it out loud to my mom one night, “I’m starting to think there just aren’t any deer in that forest.”

The very next morning my three children and I were cuddled together in our family room.  Paw Patrol was barely audible and my coffee felt warm and soothing in my hands.  In this quiet, peaceful pajama moment, something outside caught my eye...

Standing perfectly still in the dewy meadow was a majestic deer.

His large, velvety eyes blinked as his ears moved back and forth.  His breath hung above his head in tiny clouds.  He was beautiful and perfect, but most of all, he was there for our eyes to see.

"Deer", I barely whispered, scared I would make a sound and awake from a dream.  We seemed to all fall together against the window, pressing our hands against the cool panes. We watched him in silence until he turned toward the forest. He took a few powerful bounds, and was gone.

Once his white tail had disappeared among the pines, we all just sort of stared at each other for a moment, and then the kids erupted with cheers and first pumps.  After the excitement about actually seeing a deer passed, a feeling of shame began to creep in. How silly of me to have begun to doubt they were there in the forest! I should have had some patience, and some faith!  It wasn't just a deer in that meadow, it was a lesson, and a reminder of how much work faith can take. Everybody seems to know the story of what Jesus told his disciple Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I felt ashamed that I had been a “doubting mama” for a moment. I spend so much time and effort on the mundane tasks of life, I had forgotten to set time aside to exercise my faith muscles. My faith is strong, but there is always room to make it grow.

I will work to teach my children not to waste time searching an empty meadow for something they don’t need to see, to believe.

Many deer have passed through the meadow since that day.  They have left their tracks in our yard and snacked on my garden.  We have seen coyotes, raccoons, owls, and a new-born baby fawn that could barely take a step.  Even with all this proof of existence, sometimes I still find my eyes searching from the window. But now, each time I catch myself beginning to scan the yard, I replace the thought with a prayer. I pray that some day I may be strong enough to always believe without seeing, and to find faith in whatever it is I search for, even if it seems hopeless and empty.  But, to always keep my eyes open.  Because sometimes having "faith" means believing that on any cool, Autumn morning, something amazing may be just outside your window.

A portion of this article originally appeared in The Catholic Moment.