It’s rutting season. The lazy days of summer are finished, and the frenzy of breeding season has begun. Mature, whitetail bucks have rubbed the velvet off their antlers and they are on the move: sparring, challenging, marking territory, roaming far and wide, darting off in all directions to accomplish one task: to mate, to bring forth newness of life.
This year school’s fall break coincided perfectly with rutting season. On our seven-hour car trip to visit family, we drove along highway after highway littered with squirrels, raccoons, opossum, and deer - mostly deer, male deer, deer who bound over streams, dart through fields, and attempt to cross six-lane superhighways.
It’s hard to know what to say to small children when they see dead animals laying on the side of the road, especially those deer. They’re just so lovely, skin like carmel, brown eyes round and soft, antlers like brown sugar and velvet mixed together. We must have counted fifteen on the way there and more than twenty on the way home, and it was question after question: “Mama, is that one sleeping? Mama, why is his head bent back like that? Mama, what’s that bird doing on top of his belly? Mama, when Jesus brings everything back to life, will he bring back deer, too?”
Who am I to say he won’t? Who am I to say that life isn’t stronger than death, even and especially along the shoulder of an interstate?
I may not have all the answers, but this much I know: I don’t want my children to have to grow up in a world of so much violence, so much death, so much pain. As we were driving, all I could think of was that song written so long ago, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” + Psalm 42
As the nights get longer and cooler, the frenzy of rutting season begins. Soon the season of Advent will be upon us, and we’ll be able to cry out once again for God to come, to clean up the mess we’ve made, to raise the dead, to mend the broken, to comfort the children crying in the back seat.
My soul longs to sit in a warm church, to light candles week after week after week, and to pray for God to come and make things right. I’m like that lover in the Song of Songs who hears the voice of her beloved and, lifting her eyes up to the mountains, sees God leaping, darting, and bounding like a deer during rutting season. God, she sings, is like a gazelle, a young stag, who comes bounding into our lives to announce this good news: the winter will end, flowers and baby deer will appear upon the earth, and death will be no more. For the time of singing has come, and will come again. The cold, dark months will serve as a season of hope, and new life will rise with the Spring. + Song of Songs 2:11-12
A big thank you to Francisco Javier Perez for this photograph full of life and love!