As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.Psalm 42:1 (NIV)
This familiar verse has been the inspiration for some of my favorite hymns and praise songs, but only recently did I pause to think about how desperately a deer needs to find those streams. The Holy Land is largely arid, rather like California in many respects. Finding flowing water can be difficult, especially after a long, dry summer.
I picture the deer, frantic for a drink, its sides heaving as in pants in the heat of the day, and its relief at finding a bubbling brook to slake its thirst.
Most of us have never known this kind of thirst. When we want a drink, our biggest challenge is deciding whether to settle for tap water or opt for a more refreshing beverage. We don’t pant for water.
Near my home in Northern California fruit and nut trees are in many neighborhood yards. It is common to see over-ripe apples, citrus fruits, and even pomegranates clinging to the branches or rotting beneath the trees. Sidewalks beneath overhanging limbs are sometimes covered with the shells and meats of ripe walnuts, pecans, or almonds which have been crushed underfoot.
The same people who pay high prices for these fruits and nuts in the grocery stores cannot be bothered to gather them. We take our bounty for granted.
It occurs to me that while I’m totally dependent upon the grace of God and yearn for a closer relationship with Him, I can’t honestly claim that “my soul pants for…my God,” not in the way the deer gasps for life-giving water.
How odd, when I consider that the deer is merely concerned with daily survival while my relationship with God determines my eternity.
I’m afraid I’ve been taking God’s abundant love and grace for granted, expecting it to be on tap whenever I need Him.
In my childhood when my grandmother wanted a favor she would preface her request with, “Be a dear.” As in, “Jonna, be a dear and bring me my sweater.”
I always tried to please her, of course, but now I think it may be time for me to be a deer, instead, as I recognize how desperately I need God’s presence every day.