Deer Today and Gone Tomorrow: Lasting Truth in the Face of Impermanence

August 9, 2022

I have spoken before In these columns about a fellow seminary student and friend. Her name is Rev. Teresa Burton.

I always loved listening to Teresa, whether it was an informal conversation in the Unity Village cafeteria or hearing her deliver a lesson during a Sunday service. She always struck me as an “old soul” with much insight and wisdom.

Therefore, I was not surprised when Unity World Headquarters named Teresa as the editor of The Daily Word. I believe The Daily Word has thrived under her leadership.

Teresa started emailing so-called “notes from the editor,” and I have found them to be spiritual gems. A recent note from her reports that she glanced out her window a few weeks ago and saw a young fawn curled up against the shed in her backyard. The animal was small, alone, and did not move for several hours.

“Convinced something was wrong, and the fawn was about to succumb to injury, illness, or malnutrition, I called my local animal control agency to ask them to intervene – to help save it, relocate it, or remove it if it died,” Teresa said.

However, the animal control staffer taking the call did not share Teresa’s sense of urgency. She saw the situation differently and explained that the mother probably stashed her baby by the shed, seeing it as a safe place. Meanwhile, the mother went off to get food or something else and would return shortly.

Teresa noted, “I was prepared for a response of action or indifference. I was not prepared to learn that there wasn’t really a problem. I paused before I stammered, finally asking, ‘So what should I do?”

The animal control staffer did not hesitate to reply, “Enjoy it.”

Teresa made a self-assessment and commented that there “are plenty of things I’m inclined to do when confronted with an unusual or unexpected development. Learn about it, try to fix it, and worry about it? No problem. But just let it unfold in its own time? Appreciate it while it’s happening? Not so much.”

The little fawn stayed in Teresa’s yard for over a week. Occasionally the mama doe was also spotted in the yard, nursing and grooming her young fawn. Teresa said she followed the advice that she had been given and “enjoyed every minute of it.”

Teresa also used this time and experience to “take a closer look at myself, to remember the many times I squandered the precious present moment to dwell in the past or wonder about the future. I thought about how much of my life I had missed just by not being present to it.”

But in this situation, Teresa understood that her time with the fawn in her yard was limited. She treasured these moments and did her best to stay in the present moment. Teresa also felt a gift of gratitude for this experience.

Soon enough, the fawn and mother doe were gone for good. “Accepting life’s impermanence is a key part of spiritual living. Change is constant. Relationships evolve … Some change, and others end. Children grow up, leave home, and start families of their own. People live, and then they die. No amount of effort, worry, or wonder is going to stop life or freeze any moment in time,“ Teresa observes.

She adds, “The key to being at peace is to be grateful in each moment, to welcome change and make friends with impermanence. And the best way to do that is to stay rooted in faith, in the changelessness and absolute goodness of God. The care, compassion, and wonder we feel for the things of the world have their roots in God as divine love, and that love is what sees us through the changing seasons of life.”

In a few weeks, my daughter Rachel is going off to college. It seems like just yesterday, Rachel was in a preschool that she loved, run by Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Rachel had a wonderful teacher by the name of Miss Sonia.

One night little Rachel looked up at my wife, Debbie, and me and pleaded with us, “Mom and dad, promise me that I will always be going to Saint John’s and in Miss Sonia’s class.”

It was challenging to explain to her that we couldn’t make this promise. Rachel was very sad the following year when she returned to school and discovered that Miss Sonia was no longer teaching at Saint John’s.

I really do think that both Jesus and Buddha hit the nail on the head concerning impermanence. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount and other places that worrying could not end changes. But he told us not to worry and to “Seek first the kingdom of God“ (Matthew 6:33). Buddha made this realization about the impermanence of everything in the material world a core part of the teachings.

In Unity metaphysics, we speak of a “relative realm” in which change is constant, and nothing lasts. But there is also the “absolute realm” of Divine Mind, which is changeless Truth.

When we draw more of the absolute realm down into this material world, then the impermanence disturbs us less. We are also able to find more times when we are enjoying the metaphysical fawns in our life even though we know they will not always be leaning up against our shed.

Or, as Teresa puts it, “We can’t know ahead of time what will come into our lives and how long it will stay. But we can accept it. We can welcome it. And, for the sweetest kinds of surprises, we can enjoy it.“

Many blessings,

Rev. Rick

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