Two deer. Two dogs.
This is what I carried away with me.
I boarded the church bus two Saturdays ago, along with a small group of friends, and rode to Canton Mississippi for a music retreat at Gray Center. The morning was spent sampling a variety of music styles while sitting with my eyes closed, then lying on my stomach in that pleasant place between asleep and awake.
I ate lunch at a table with both friends and strangers, and I fought my introverted self and made conversation. I was glad I did.
Then, back to the chapel and the music. I lay in corpse pose, listening and letting my mind wander while my body relaxed. When I first lay down, my lower back screamed at me. The muscles were tight. It had been too long since I did yoga and too long since I released all of the crud that was weighing me down. I breathed and I waited. Slowly, my muscles let go and I relaxed.
Eventually, I grew restless. There is a beautiful labyrinth at Gray Center and it had been years since I’d first walked it. I left my mat and my bags and the music and walked outside.
Reaching the labyrinth, I looked out across a grassy field, and there, leaping past, were two baby deer.
My spirit leapt with them.
And then they were gone, and the air was crisp and my day stretched out in front of me in peace.
I entered the labyrinth, asking God to help me with the fear I have been carrying everywhere, in all of my muscles, in every single bone. I prayed for freedom. My feet curved the spiral, and I was facing that wide flat field again.
This time, I saw no deer.
I saw dogs.
Two dogs came bounding right toward me. I wasn’t scared despite their size and the fact that there are no dogs at Gray Center. Instead, I knelt and read one collar, learning that these were hunting dogs. They wore not only a regular collar but also a GPS collar with antennae attached. Someone always knew the location of these beautiful canines.
They were friendly creatures. They let me pet them and talk to them, and then they turned and bounded away, disappearing into the trees.
All week, I tried to connect the two dogs and the two deer. At first, I thought the deer were free, and the dogs were collared. I kept trying to make the deer the good side of the coin and the dogs the bad, but that wasn’t right. I couldn’t make anything about those dogs bad.
And then it hit me…
The dogs and the deer… both were free.
There are different kinds of free.
The deer were leaping through the trees free, nothing at all to mark them or bar them. But they were also vulnerable. Hunters were after them (hence the dogs).
The dogs were collared, but they were not trapped. They also went running free. The difference was… someone always knew exactly where they were.
As beautiful as those deer were, most days, I prefer the second kind of free. I want to run through the tall grass and I want to dance, but I also want to know someone is watching over me, someone will notice if I fall, if I fail, if I need a hand to bring me home.
Two deer. Two dogs.
*originally published on Middle Places