There was no buck in sight that sub-zero evening, but he didn’t need to be there. His story was written as clearly across the January ground as though he’d penned a tale and published it.
Heart-shaped hoof prints studded the powdery snow helter-skelter. This deer had been doing more than just passing by.
The brittle yellow cornstalks nearby were ripped up and broken off. This deer had been doing more than nibbling on remnants of the past fall’s corn cobs.
I didn’t fully understand the saga, however, until I’d walked a few steps further and saw something lying on the snow. I might have overlooked it for a stick had I been in the forest, but out in the middle of a field, far from any tree, it stood out like a sore thumb. So this was the meaning of all the ruckus!
The antler had fallen off so recently that was even still a tiny bit of red blood at the base.
The other was not to be found in the near vicinity. My imagination filled in the blanks: perhaps the first one had fallen off easily a while ago, but this one had stubbornly hung on, half off, half on, loose and bothersome and catching on everything like a snagged fingernail. In a fit of annoyance, he’d thrashed his head against the cornstalks. Tonight, that young buck was enjoying the newfound freedom of a head free of at least one loose, annoying antler.
I imagined that his jubilation mirrored that of my six-year-old’s this afternoon when she finally summoned the bravery to pluck out an uncomfortably wiggly baby tooth that had stubbornly refused to fall out on its own.
Freedom! Oh, the sweet relief.
A dear friend recently gave me a stone with that same word, “Freedom”, engraved on it. Or rather, she asked me to, without looking, draw out of a basket full of stones engraved with many words and see what word I got—and this was it. The word didn’t resonate with me strongly at first, but knowing that she had prayed for the word to have meaning for me, I continued to mull it over for several days—and it was out there in the swiftly falling dusk, with the bitter wind rattling the cornstalks and a lone spike antler at my feet, that I understood what it meant for me personally.
It was not a reminder of the freedoms that I already enjoyed, as I had at first thought, but an invitation to the freedoms that I still needed to experience. Freedom from the things weighing me down, the things encumbering me, holding me back, dragging me down. I’m not talking about people or things or other outward tangible things; I’m talking about inner bondages and burdens of the heart.
Perhaps you have a few of those, too? Perhaps a hurt feeling, too long nursed. Perhaps a bit of jealousy, a secret wish for malice, harbored anger. Perhaps some sense of entitlement, some need for control, some lie of worthlessness. Perhaps some disappointment you haven’t accepted. Perhaps some hidden fear or shame, eating away.Then this word carved on this stone is for you, too. It’s an invitation to break free of that inner thing that is dragging you down, to muster the courage to let go, to summon the strength that is yours to claim in Christ and bravely lay aside. Shed it like a useless old antler, like an outgrown baby tooth. Drop it on the ground, throw it in the garbage—and leave it there. Then walk on, without looking back, into the fullness of freedom Christ longs for you to experience.
“Therefore…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.” (Galations 5:1)
“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
“Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)