A Lesson in Vulnerability

Vulnerability is hard for me. I have serious trust issues, especially since being widowed. When your life turns upside down (Which happens when you get a cancer diagnosis or lose your job or someone you love leaves you or, worse yet, dies.) it’s hard to figure out how to get your feet back on the ground. For years, I was one of those self-sufficient types who didn’t really “get” relying on others. But when death came calling I was forced to get it.

But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a slow learner, so God has to keep teaching me, again and again, to stay connected. As my lessons continue, I’m actually learning to let go and revel in the way my tiny puzzle piece adjoins the giant jigsaw that is life.

God provided another teaching moment just this morning. It was so gentle and tender that it took my breath away. I was sipping coffee on the tiny patio of my rented condo on Fripp Island, SC and relishing the pale pastels of the fading sunrise. Thanks to the bright yellow signs that warn visitors of the dangers of feeding (or finding, for that matter) alligators I knew to be careful in the marsh and shallows. The “Lights Out at Night!” signs let me know I was in a sea-turtle nesting area. I knew sharks and jellyfish were in the coastal waters but I was rather unprepared to see a dainty family of deer appear in the dawn light. In fact, I had to blink a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. But there they were: An impressive 8-point buck, a fawn still dotted with baby spots and a lovely doe. With bobbing heads, they were nibbling the tiny strip of grass between the condo and the breakfront. Seeing deer was an unexpected joy but I couldn’t believe my eyes when the doe broke into a slow trot and led her family toward me on the patio.

I had some apple slices so I broke off a piece and tossed it toward her. She ignored it and kept on coming, so I threw another piece, which she also passed up. Slowing down as she taxied onto the patio, she fixed me with a gaze as intense and gentle as a moonbeam, walked right up to me and extended her soft face toward mine. And I knew, somehow, that she wanted me to hand-feed her. Those dreamy dark-chocolate eyes never wavered from mine. I offered her a piece of apple and she delicately received it, and drew her head back a bit to swallow it, not unlike a nun taking communion. And then she would lower her head to my hand to receive the next piece. I threw a few for the buck and the fawn, but she would only allow a few tosses before reaching out again for my hand.

I was blown away by her soft vulnerability and quiet determination. Her tawny, toned body perched like a beach babe atop high-heeled stilts. When the apple was gone I expected her to leave but instead, she stood quietly, her dark orbs gazing deeply into mine. I was transported somewhere by them, lost in their softness. It was unspeakably beautiful. And then, she lifted her head and as magically as they had appeared, all three turned and leapt off into the marsh.

The doe was gone but her lesson remained. She trusted me and I loved her for it. She offered me nothing but gentle vulnerability and I gave her my golden delicious apple. If that’s not a lesson from heaven, I’m not sure what is.

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