The Lesson of the Fawn

Fawn-drawingSeveral years ago, I caught a fleeting glimpse of deer running across our driveway. At the tail end of the glimpse was a small, brown blur that I guessed to be a dog chasing the deer. But later, going outside, I was startled to discover that the small blur had been not a dog, but a fawn, that had become stuck between two wooden spindles of the railing that encloses the far end of our driveway.

While the larger deer must have run around the railings, jumping down the embankment along the side of the driveway, the young fawn had made a grievous error in judgment. Finding itself in the enclosed area, the fawn had attempted to continue forward through one of the narrow openings between the rails, instead of changing its course. While the front half of the fawn had fit between the spindles, its hindquarters did not. The fawn was wedged in and could not get out. All attempts to free itself by kicking and squirming only exacerbated the fawn’s situation.

But as bad as the fawn’s entrapment appeared to be from the driveway side of the railing, the total picture, revealed only from the other side, showed the entrapment to be a blessing in disguise. The front half of the fawn that had passed between the spindles had no where to go but down (literally), for the driveway and railing sit atop a large retaining wall that supports the driveway. The front half of the deer was dangling fifteen feet in the air above a wooden walkway below. The fall could easily prove fatal. If that were not bad enough, the dire situation was exacerbated by yellow jackets that were coming out of the retaining wall, stinging the fawn at will.

Distressed by the fawn’s situation, I called my husband, and we quickly explored options. There weren’t many. The best plan that came to mind was to have one person loosen one of the two spindles that held the deer in place, while another person (theoretically) yanked the fawn backward to safety. Not up to the task of deer wrangling myself, we called a friend to help my husband and then waited his arrival.

While we waited, my husband decided to check one of the two spindles holding the fawn to see how tightly it was attached. Apparently, by that point, due to the fawn’s squirming, it had become quite loose. As soon as my husband touched the spindle, it pivoted away from the fawn and set the fawn free. In deadly silence, the fawn fell out of sight to the walkway below.

We both stood motionless, stunned by the unexpected turn of events. We had just witnessed what we had dreaded most and had wanted so much to avoid. But my external stillness was a cover-up for the rage that was building inside of me. How could this have happened? What had gone “wrong”? The spindle, coming off in the manner that it did, was not part of our plan, and now there was nothing that we could do about the situation. Couldn’t God have kept this from happening in the first place or at least have given us the opportunity to try to do something to help? Indignation at the apparent injustice of it all rose inside of me.

Perhaps you can relate. On the one hand, like the young deer, we have all made poor decisions (some greater than others). Sometimes our errors result from inexperience or lack of understanding, but sometimes they come from bullying forward, insistent upon doing things our way. Then, caught in the consequences of our decisions, we (and others) suffer the stings that our errors inflict.

But then there are times when we are simply witnesses to the varying degrees of trauma in which other people find themselves trapped. From our vantage point as observers, we may offer advice (plans of action), believing that our grasp of a given situation enables us to provide the necessary path forward to obtaining the desired result. We want to be helpful. But without fully understanding the scope of a situation, we more often than not find our helpfulness also to be limited. Equally bad, but enlightening, are the times when a turn of events leaves us completely stymied, and we recognize that we have no solution to offer. 

The plan that my husband and I had contrived to help the fawn on that memorable day met its demise when the fawn went over the railing. So did our hope. The compassion that we had felt for the fawn turned to pity. Nothing remained for us to do but to deal with the aftermath. Willing to face that gruesome task before I was, my husband leaned over the railing to face the inevitable. I stood still, dreading what he would see.

But the words that I expected to hear from him were never spoken. Instead, I heard my husband let out one big whoop. He had looked just in time to see the decidedly dazed fawn jump to its legs and dart off (albeit a little wobbly) down the hill. We both shouted with joyful relief at the totally unexpected outcome.

We all know too well that not every situation in life ends as well as did the fawn’s that day… at least, not from our perspective. But neither are our endings as dire as we often project them to be. Sometimes taking a fall is the only route to freedom––true freedom, and it must be taken.

As much compassion as I had for the fawn that day, the one thing that I never would have considered doing (had it been possible) would have been to have traded places with it, to have saved its life by taking its fall for it. My life was too dear (excuse the pun) to me for me to have ever considered taking such an act for a mere deer. Neither would I be likely to do so for many other people… unless the one involved were someone I loved more than my own life.

Yet, that is exactly what God did for each and every one of us:  mere mortals.

In mankind’s most helpless situation, created by our decision to follow our own limited thinking instead of believing God, we trapped ourselves in sin and couldn’t get out. Facing the granddaddy of all precipices that led straight to eternal death, there was nothing that we could do to save ourselves.

Then God, in the ultimate act of love, embodied Himself in His Son, Jesus, and took our fall into death for us. He literally sacrificed His life to become our Hope—our Saving Grace. Until the day when Jesus died upon the Cross, death was death, forever inescapable by the meager efforts of men. Then the seemingly impossible happened: Jesus rose. He got up out of our sinful death and walked in the eternal life of His powerful righteousness. He set each of us free from our wrong thinking about ourselves and about God, giving us concrete proof of God’s love for us all.

God’s mercy and loving-kindness operate beyond the scope of our limited expectations. God is forever Good and forever Capable… and forever desirous of raising up every one of us who have been set free by Jesus. All we need do is let out one loud whoop of exclamation—our confession of faith in Jesus as Savor, testifying to the Truth of the Great Exchange that has been witnessed by many.

And that is where God’s Plan—Perfect Love—beats our plans every time:  God steps in so that we can live on. 


“[The disciples] were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  (Matthew 19:25, 26)  


Randy on February 17, 2013 at 6:57 am said: “Wonderful insight Cathy! While the key part about God taking our fall is the vital part of this account, I was also struck with the paras in the middle about or inclinations to develop a plan and/or offer advice from our perspective or vantage point. Been learning about that a lot lately and this will help reinforce that learning. thanks!”

Cathy Butler on February 2, 2013 at 6:57 pm said:  “Learning to see the “good news” is the hard part sometimes. Often in a “bad situation avoided” I will “thank you Lord” but fail to see the “real” good news (lesson) He wants me to see.”

Connie Pollner on February 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm said: “I love the way Cathy demonstrates how we see the “good news” in many every day happenings if we look for it.”