This morning I savoured the confection that is winter in Canada.
The trees on Trail 10 were frosted with yesterday’s snow, twinkling in the early morning light. I’d let my beautiful bride sleep in, making sure she could find the coffee when she woke up. I was the only one in the woods, and the solitude was a gift. There was just enough new snow down to make the trail ski-able, but the ice underneath crunched under me and grabbed at my poles.
After about 3 km, I rounded a bend and there she was. I wasn’t alone, after all. A perfect white-tailed doe stood right in my path, plump and vigourous and appearing to enjoy the sugar-frosted forest as much as I. I stopped to stare, and we looked at each other in silence for thirty seconds. She nosed the air and discovered nothing, as there was not a breath of wind. Curious, she cocked her head. Her tail twitched nervously, and she returned her gaze to me.
In those moments I rediscovered the phrase, “doe-eyed beauty.” Her eyes were deep, black pools–mirrors of serenity and caution, curiosity and fear. Then she batted her long eyelashes at me, and I was smitten. (When my granddaughter does that, she can charm a dog off a meat truck.)
“Good morning, Beautiful,” I said softly.”Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.” For some reason I didn’t feel ridiculous talking to an animal. It seemed right somehow. Once, in Nicaragua, I had conducted an admittedly one-sided conversation in Spanish with a bewildered burro colt. When its owner had come around the corner of the casa and burst into derisive laughter, I’d felt foolish. But this morning was different.
Instead of bolting, she took several steps in my direction, tail twitching, ears erect. She stopped, and I spoke to her again. More steps toward me, until she was nearly within reach of my ski pole. (This had happened to me when I was a kid, only the deer was a buck with a full rack and we’d stared each other down at a salt lick behind a hunting camp. When he’d gotten so close I could almost touch him, I’d jumped into the air, thrashing my arms and screaming like a madman.) My doe’s eyes were so expressive I could almost hear her saying, “I know you won’t hurt me, and I’d love to have you stroke my neck, but that ancient memo from The Creator tells me this would not be a good idea. And I’m not sure what those sticks are in your hands, so I think I’d better be going now.” She batted her lashes at me again and in three leisurely bounds she had disappeared into the forest.
And I thought of the Kingdom.
Having just finished John Vaillant’s incredible book, The Tiger I am more keenly aware of the symbiosis that sometimes exists between people and animals in the wild. The way hunters and Amur tigers in far eastern Russia share their kills and seem to know and understand each other intimately hearkens back to Paradise, when people and animals apparently interacted on a completely different level than we currently understand.
The Scriptures indicate that when Jesus reigns during the Kingdom Age promised repeatedly in the biblical text, the animal kingdom will revert back to its Edenic state. Here is how the prophet Isaiah describes it:
“Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11.5-9)
Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch remark about this passage,
“There now reign among irrational creatures, from the greatest to the least, – even among such as are invisible, – fierce conflicts and bloodthirstiness of the most savage kind. But when the Son of David enters upon the full possession of His royal inheritance, the peace of paradise will be renewed, and all that is true in the popular legends of the golden age be realized and confirmed.” (Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 7, p. 285. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1980)
I’m a committed premillennialist. By that, I mean I believe the prophetic Scriptures about the Kingdom Age to be just that–not symbolic or allegorical, not some idealistic wish of a deluded preacher. In Romans, Paul writes of “the whole creation…groaning” (Rom 8.22) and “eagerly awaiting” this time.
My encounter on Trail 10 this morning made the Kingdom seem just a little closer.