During hunting season, a man and woman were driving down the road in their pick-up truck and passed a herd of deer. The woman said with amusement at her husband’s reflex, “There you go a breathin’ heavy.” Now while deer season might get some fellows all riled up, you have never seen a man pant quite so much as when he’s trying to give birth. I guess you’ll need that explained.
The year was 1999 and we were expecting our first baby. We were late scheduling birthing classes so while all the other moms sitting around on the floor listening to the instructor were barely showing, I was near the end and could have had the baby right then and there if prompted. And because I was just plum wore out, everything was funny. My husband, on the other hand, was taking things seriously. His mother often brags, “Jeff always gives 110 percent!”, so he went into the birthing class focused with enthusiasm that extended the bounds of reason. He knelt at the end of my raised knees and began to coach me in rhythmic birth-breathing. The instructor guided us moms (who apparently would lose our minds and forget how to breathe during actual childbirth) to match the dads’ controlled breaths. Have you ever had one of those moments where the world happens in slow motion and you’re not aware of anything else outside your little sphere? This was one of those times. I looked at Jeff over my bulging belly and the soon-to-be father of my child had turned into a crazy man panting the likes you have never seen. Because I was wore out, I laughed until I cried and was forced to shut my eyes to block out his hilarious face. Hoping to regain composure, I peeped through tiny slits to see if ole Huff-n-Puff had calmed down any. But he had sensed my breathing was compromised by the laughing fit and was in the middle of a panting frenzy working feverishly to get me back on track. It was so bad I thought he was going to have the baby himself! Even funnier is that he never even coached me when the actual time came! I was having contractions and he was building himself a nest out of chair cushions saying how he was going to sleep because he “needed his strength for tomorrow.”
The preacher this past Sunday quoted Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O, God.” I looked around at the congregation seated apart for social-distancing, all wearing mouth coverings and I realized we were like that deer--all figuratively panting in some way behind the masks. Later, I asked Dad why a deer would be panting and he said “because it’s wore out. Something must have been chasing it.” Yes. Something has been chasing it... I wonder what has been chasing us this year. A pandemic? Fear? Social unrest? Anger? Hopelessness? Disappointments? Sure, there are always blessings and bright sides, but truth be told, lots of people are wore out from 2020.
Like a panting deer longing for streams of water, all this running from something has our souls thirsty. There are plenty of ineffective substitutes, but the best solution to refresh those of us who are parched is Jesus. You may have noticed many people putting up Christmas lights and decorations extremely early this year. I believe it’s directly connected with our need for hope and hydration for wore out souls. We realize Christmas season, with baby Jesus at the center, is not merely a mirage on the horizon, but it’s an oasis. And we can’t get there quick enough! I don’t know about you but I’m going to take a deep breath (as best I can behind a mask) and drink it in…because I’m going to need my strength for tomorrowJ
As we round the corner at my friend Colleen’s red brick house near the entrance of our neighborhood, I throw up my hand in greeting even when there is nobody outside. My husband used to ask doubtfully, “Who do you see?” but now he remains quiet and silently judges me. Growing up along a WV one-lane country road, we were all loyal wavers. Each local has an individual signature wave. My dad’s is a confident yet friendly right hand finger roll with a gun point at the end. Mine is a fast back and forth motion, a wave much like the shaking of a squirrel tail which incidentally got my buddy shot when he went squirrel hunting with his apparently blind brother. (He’s full of lead but OK now.)
On family vacations we kids, along with Mom and Aunt Hilda, were stowed in the back of the station wagon or a truck bed and to pass time we would wave to other cars. They always waved back, probably because we were facing them out the back window and we simply wore them down. One car sporting a beautiful rainbow flag merited extra flailing and the two ladies in the car smiled with obvious appreciation at our stuffy vehicle full of wiry kids and tired haggard women. Especially fun was pumping a fist in the air and pulling it down when we passed 18-wheelers. The truckers rewarded us with loud blasts on their air horn, which in turn also helped Dad and Uncle Jack stay alert in the front seat. When we were older girls riding the 4-H float in the Woodchopping Festival parade, we learned to do the pageant wave to appear sophisticated.
Knowing the right wave is imperative! A few years ago there was a man stranded in the Alaskan wilderness who perished because he mistakenly gave the signal for “ALL OK—DO NOT WAIT” to the rescue plane which then flew away! Knowing what signals you’re sending can be a matter of life or death. We have friends who recently started boating and discovered it’s a federal law they must have an orange distress flag aboard to wave in case of emergency. While our friends are merely lake boaters with unrivaled survival skills the law recognizes different people hit their distress level at different points. As in life, even when dry land (comfort and peace) is in sight some panic because they’re afraid of sinking before they reach it. On the other hand, sometimes strongminded and calm people don’t think they need Jesus to save them. Believing they can get to Heaven on their own good works, pride won’t allow them to wave a “rescue me” flag.
My sister, Cindy, and I didn’t have a distress flag on a kayak outing down the Little Miami River but clearly we were in need of help. Our vessel had taken on too much water and was going down. Notability the degree of distress was lessened because our feet could still touch bottom, which was another lesson learned-- It’s vital to stay grounded.
Admittedly it’s been harder to stay grounded in 2020, but one thing that has helped is knowing/showing love. “…and I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…”(Ephesians 3:17&18) Being grounded in that soul-saving love provides us some genuine security. When we are in over our heads, we have a lifeline. And whether our hands are waving a friendly greeting to connect us, or waving an orange distress flag, we can best be served if we take time to fold them in prayer. Isn’t it interesting that S.O.S., although not an abbreviation, is often associated with the phrase Save Our Souls, which therein recognizes our biggest crisis? We all need saving.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel