Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
About Fear > Fear, Perfect Love, and a Deer
Fear, Perfect Love, and a Deer

Grace-Notes #7 – ran on Sunday: 1/30/05

Fear, Perfect Love and a Deer

I know a little boy who has a deer in his chest. It lives there, usually small and curled, like a warm brown bean, low and asleep. But, sometimes, the deer rises on thin wobbly legs and stands, eyes as big as the moon for a moment, looks around and shakes in waves of tremble. It swivels its head, and its big mooneyes, and sees nothing safe, nothing familiar. The little deer inside the boy holds its breath and freezes in the light.
And as I’ve watched, I’ve seen this deer rise into the face of the boy, seen the boy become the deer, his body buzzing with chemicals of bolt and hide, his heart churning bigger than any small heart should, the blood in his ears speeding while all around him the world slows to a crawl and his world, reeling and spinning and tilting, seems even more soundless and alone.
Fear. Our bodies are built for it. Our hormones begin the parade of anxiety through our veins, marching to and fro with fuel for the flee. Our muscles are primed and ready, our skin electric, our bones set for jerk and run – and then, head a-tilt, ears suddenly hearing better than our eyes will ever see, we listen for the lion or tiger or bear. We listen for the big bad wolf or the snake ? s-shaped and fanged ? hissing near the bone of our ankle.
Of course, these toothful things are almost never there to run from. So, what do we do when our body is all abuzz, but it is our soul in a panic?
What do we do when the parade of anxiety and fear and loss and worry and lonely and hurt winds through us? What do we do when great illness moves someone we love down and close to death? What do we do when our job is gone and we really really could lose our home? What do we do when someone is trying to take from us, or demand from us, or scare us half to death with what we are lacking? What do we do when we’ve done too much, or not enough, or no good at all? And what of the fear? What do we do with the fear?
If perfect love drives out fear, and if there is no fear in faith, then what does it say about us when we are all a-tingle and afraid? What about when we are hopeless and terrified and frozen in the light, deer-faced, trembling? What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with our love, our faith, our very selves?
Nothing. Not a red-jeweled thing. Only God knows perfectly of love and faith, and therefore He knows perfectly well that I can be terrified and faithful. He knows fear feeds the terror and faith calms the fear and that only faith and never fear all the time would be perfectly grand. And He knows it’s never going to happen, because we’re humans and humans aren’t perfect.
Our world, with all its veins of green rivers moving and yellow leaves falling and its limbs tickling alive with people of good heart and good intent, is still and at times a big bad scary place. At night, too many nights, too many of us hear that something scary huff-huff-huffing under our pillow, over our shoulder or deep in our gut.
And our deer rises up at the sound. Let it. That little boy I know? He gave form to the fear in his chest. He saw it as a deer, and named it. He can feel it stirring and stretching and knows when it’s rising up, knows it may tremble and fill him. But, he is learning that the deer will not overwhelm him for long – that it is just one part of him. And not a part to be banished or shamed away, but a part to soothed and calmed faithfully. We all feel forsaken sometimes, but we won’t be left behind for trembling. This little boy, faithful and shaking, makes his way through the forest when he is afraid, nudging his deer always toward the light on the other side.