“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
A wonderful old hymn renders these lines this way: “As pants the hart for cooling streams/ When heated in the chase,/ So longs my soul, O God, for Thee/ And Thy refreshing grace.”
The Psalm doesn’t say why, exactly, the deer is panting, so the hymn writers fill in the blank: the deer is being hunted.
Most of us have never actually been hunted or had to run for our lives. But anyone who’s ever fallen far enough behind on their bills that the creditors call them up knows what it’s like. So does anyone who’s ever done something bad enough to make their conscience call them on it. Sometimes even just a really busy day can make me feel like prey to email and appointments and deadlines. It’s enough to make a body long for a slow, cool draught of God, a drop of eternity, just one swig of hope.
Perhaps when we are at our most frenzied and hunted-feeling is just the time to stop running. To pause, and take a drink. Try this: next time you’re feeling hunted, stop. Just stop, and between your panting breaths, ask God to come and quench your thirst, to refresh you, to pour Godself out on you in waterfalls of grace.
Because it’s hard to feel like prey with the Creator of Heaven and Earth by your side.
Oh my God, I am hunted, panting, thirsty. Pour yourself out on me, and make me ready for the world. Amen.
 “As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams”. words by Nahum Tate & Nicholas Brady 1696.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.