Of Fear, Faith, and Foxes

The Beginnings of Fear

When I was eight years old, a strange man banged on our front door.

My mom opened it and he asked her, “this cat out here yours?”

Looking over her shoulder at me, he leaned in to say something which only she could hear. Mom turned to me and my sister and brother and told us to wait inside.

“Stay here!” I heard her shout as the door slammed behind her.

But I didn’t stay. I followed her out and around the side of our house on a 10-second delay so she wouldn’t see me disobey. When I turned the corner, I saw the man was pointing at my cat in the road– what was left of him. He had run over him with his truck.

I can’t remember how I felt then or what I did immediately after that discovery. Did my mom see me? Did I tell her what I’d witnessed? I don’t think so. I must’ve run back into the house.

She came in to carefully announce the bad news. “Bruno is dead. Sorry, kids. He was hit by a truck. He must’ve run out into the road.”

I do remember some days later getting off of the school bus on that same road and bursting into tears. My cat was gone because I didn’t take care of him. I began to fear the mistakes I could make. I began to wonder if I could have saved him. Did I have any control over the dangers on the road?

Man Versus Nature

Throughout my childhood there were a few more pet vs. car incidents:

I lost a puppy to a car. Ka-thump.

I saw another pet dog wrestle a moving car’s tire with his teeth. He somehow survived the run-in and lived with a scar to prove it.

I should have had both dogs on a leash. Then they wouldn’t have been where only cars are supposed to be.

Nowadays, whenever I see a small squashed animal body on the road, I feel a deep sadness. It seems so wrong. An innocent life just gone.

You can’t warn the animals about the dangers on the road. They’re just running around doing what animals do. Unfortunately, the people who should be taking care, aren’t.

Friday Fox

On a Friday morning in June this year, I was outside on the back patio early.

Enjoying the cool quiet before the heat and cicadas came calling, I spotted the fox. He was maybe 20 feet away from me at the edge of the yard just doing what animals do. His coat was plump and fluffy, an orange-red perfection. He never noticed me. I stared frozen as he sniffed the ground then scratched an ear. I had a whole 60 seconds of joy before he headed toward the creek and disappeared down the bank.

The visit felt like a gift from God.

That evening, my husband Scott and I went out to a movie. At about 9 PM, we were headed back home. I was taking care to drive the speed limit. Actually, I was driving kind of slow.

Scott said, “Why don’t you speed up?”

Normally I would. But the road wasn’t well-lit and I worry about hitting deer, raccoons, and even opossums.

“I’m driving at a comfortable speed for me,” I said.

Scott said, “OK, babe.”

It was dark and just felt right to poke along, take it easy. When I turned into our neighborhood I remember thinking, ‘you gotta be careful on the roads close to home, too.’

And so I was.

Taking Care

Just then, the fox that had visited that morning ran across the road exactly where we were passing at 22 mph. I slammed on the brakes and felt the rumble of the tires as they pulsed to a stop. I screamed, covered my face with my hands, and leaned sobbing into the steering wheel.

Scott hadn’t seen the fox. What? he stared at me.

“The fox, I just ran over the fox, I killed the fox!!” I couldn’t bear it.

He opened his passenger-side door and looked down at the road. Sure enough, there was the poor little creature lying against the curb.

Scott said, “it’s alive but just lying there. Wait, now it’s getting up, limping a little!”

As I leaned to look, my fox was already trotting across the closest lawn without a limp. He was gone in 10 seconds, disappearing between two houses.

Life, Death, and Resurrection

I saw him alive but my body held onto his death. The grief and anguish stayed with me even though I had seen the fox scamper off.

Scott and I talked about the incident for hours that night. He said, “that actually felt personal.”

I agreed. The fact was, I had taken care, done what I could to mitigate the dangers of the road. How was it possible that the timing was so impeccable, that our paths had intersected twice in one day on that fateful Friday?

The morning encounter resulted in joy, the nighttime incident left me in anguish. I was afraid he had run away to die but I held on in faith that he was truly alive and well.

Faith Without Restraint

That confusing day stirred up memories of the years when Scott and I were touring and raising our 3 kids on the road. At home, we had the safest car we could afford, we bought the best carseats, and we always buckled up for safety.

But when we rode tour buses, everyone just bounced around in the front lounge without any restraints.

One winter, we were traveling down a highway during an ice storm. Our tour bus suddenly slid off onto the side of the road and then a truck slammed into us. No one was hurt except the bus.

A policeman came to cart us to a nearby motel to wait out the storm. I grabbed the carseats from the storage bay but he said, “no carseats– I’m in a hurry to help other people.” I insisted but he was adamant.

Unbelievable! Twice in one day, we were driving down an icy highway and my kids were untethered. I was totally out of control. All I had to hold onto was faith that God was in control.

What Does The Fox Say

faithI have thought about and talked about that Friday Fox for weeks now.

Looking for clues about our two meetings, I wonder: were they random or personal?

Random means nothing is in my control. Personal means nothing is in my control. What do I have to fear?

I learned young that not taking care of small things could lead to suffering and tragedy. When raising my kids, I worked hard to avoid a terrible mistake. I don’t think I could have been more careful.

What difference does it make to take care or make mistakes?

The fox stirs up questions about my fear and about my faith. Can I trust God in the intersections of life, death, and resurrections? And what is my role in the whole business?

Maybe God is not sending foxes to my yard or under my car. Perhaps there’s just an organic and mysterious flow of purpose that moves His creatures to meet at the crossroads of life.

Or maybe He is sending messages through small animals, telling me to take care but trust in His care and leave the outcomes and answers to Him.

Fear says, what if you make a mistake? Faith says, so what if you make a mistake?

As I finish writing this, I get to add one more part to the story: just yesterday a small fox visited Scott and me in our yard. It appeared to be my Friday Fox, just hanging out in the same place I’d seen him two months ago.

This story ends with my fears relieved and my faith turned to sight. My Friday Fox is alive and well, doing what animals do in the world.

33 thoughts on “Of Fear, Faith, and Foxes

  1. “Fear says, what if you make a mistake? Faith says, so what if you make a mistake?”

    That’s a perfect line that I’ll be digesting for some time. Fear makes me too paralyzed to move and I’m too comfortable being so limited. I guess it shields me from being blamed if something goes wrong. When I am able to proceed with faith I feel liberated and “so what if” I get blamed. I’m not in control, but I trust the One who is. I like being faithful better than living fearful.

  2. Fear says, what if you make a mistake? Faith says, so what if you make a mistake?

    I love this quote and this story. I’ve a long history with faith and fear, unfortunately. So these words really resonate. I hope they find their way into a song one day. Surely those of us who walk the thin line between faith and fear need a song about it!

  3. Oh, Christine!

    I have two sons. It’s like living with my heart outside my body sometimes, for many reasons I can’t go into here. I am going to have to sit and meditate on what you’ve said. Thank you for sharing your insights, and what the Lord places on your heart.

    As a counselor, I appreciate your taking the risk to be honest and transparent. As a sister in Christ, please know you’re building and encouraging the Body, and it is not for naught.

    PS: I met you once, around 1991-1992, backstage at an outdoor concert in Houston. The concert had to be cut short, because Scott broke a string on his guitar! He said it was a first! Thank you for being so kind and patient with a new young fan. This “young fan” is now 50 and living on the east coast…but I still remember your graceful kindness that summer in Houston. Thank you.

    • That’s an apt image: “It’s like living with my heart outside my body” Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!!

  4. Thankful for these “Echos of Heaven”. The little prompts of the heart where God lifts our eyes to bigger purposes and higher meanings. I am in the middle of the trial of my life and am seeing many mercies of the Lord lightening my load along the way. Christine – your music is one of those mercies – and so is this sweet blog. Thankful for you and Scott, your love for Christ and your willingness to open yourself to us.

    • Diana, I appreciate your openness! May you feel a huge lifting of your load today. Thank you for your encouragement. : )

  5. Hey babe, that WAS our fox in the yard the other day! I love this piece, I love the little girl, and I certainly love the woman that takes the time to reflect and care and write her heart out.

  6. You always seem to see in this heart of mine of fear and faith. They flow together in me like a crazy dance. Sometimes a battle. Faith is the victor even when fear seems to win. Thank you so much for sharing! God uses your words to speak to this heart of mine.

    • Donna, the ‘dance’ and the ‘battle’ are great images for what we’re talking about! Thanks for commenting.

  7. You always did have a heart for the animals. 🙂 This fits right in with my study of Ecclesiastes this morning. Things seem meaningless in this life, but to someone living for Christ even little foxes have meaning. (Good thing you don’t have chickens.)

  8. Meanwhile, your chickens sit…
    Sorry, this Ozark neo-hillbilly had to throw that in.
    I feel if you didn’t sing for the Lord you guys would be ‘monstrously’ bigger in this realm. But it’s good to know your music as a bro’ and sis’ in Christ. Kinda like when there has been high school reunions in the past I get, “hey paul, whenever I hear a Genesis or peter gabriel song- I think of you!”
    Just a couple of years ago I shared your ‘If I know You” and one friend, who’s been challenged with multiple health issues, just gushed and gushed! She ‘wore the needle out’ on that one!
    If you, Margaret and Susan outlast me in this realm, I will request your live performance at my going away party with ‘Taking My Time’. Am I the first to ask of this?
    Yours in Christ,
    paul, RICHARD II

  9. Hi Christine, your fox story reminds me a little of Jonah and the plant that gave him shade (Jonah 4), in that we often respond to the little blessings of life by holding onto them as if they are “ours” and complaining if we “lose” them. But many times, God wants us to just acknowledge his sovereignty and say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I seem to remember an interview you gave after “See Inside” released about Calvinist influences in songs like “Disappear,” and there is really something reassuring about trusting in God’s complete control of all things great and small when we are “hidden in the way I was intended to be.”

  10. I have just read Romans 9 followed by your story, and connected how similar living with fear (and what we could’ve should’ve done ) is so similar to obtaining righteousness by our own efforts.
    “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:30-32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    Thank you so much for telling us stories, connecting dots, confessing your weakness as you continue the journey…
    WONDERFUL!

  11. Great story and a good thing to ponder! My mom had a sign in our house that I remember to this day about Fear and Faith. ” Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there”!

  12. Your story resonated with me in an unexpected way.
    Reading your experience immediately transported me back to the day I witnessed a dog being hit by a car as I walked to elementary school. I thought it was my fault because I made eye contact with the dog who was across the busy street. It was traumatic for an 8 year old. Not sure I’m much different now, 40 years later – ha! Having a soft heart towards the creatures God has placed here is a unique avenue for Him to speak to us.

    What an important reminder about where fear leads (paralyzed/death) vs. where faith leads (freedom/life). Easier said than living out, BUT Jesus has more than proven His faithfulness to us!

    Christine, I so appreciate what you have shared through these posts. It is evident that you are yielding to the Savior’s precious nudgings as He teaches you, even with foxes!

    Thanks for being vulnerable and inviting others on your journey, dear sister. Be assured, the Lord is using you. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” You are a blessing to me!

    Karen

    • Thanks, Karen, for your lovely response and encouragement!I appreciate your vulnerability, too, and I’ll stay the course. You have blessed me : )

  13. Hi Scott and Christine,
    Just for fun, and in the case that God is not sending the fox to your back-yard or tires, there is a likely way that
    you may be able to increase your encounters with the Friday fox! You might consider buying a $4.00 fox caller
    at a popular sporting goods store. Hopefully you will not be calling up any close-by neighbors wondering what the caller noise is all about! Keep in mind that a fox may prey on house cats and other small pets. Get the cottontail version of the callers. Also, if there are any likely larger predators in your area, you might be coaxing up more that the fox? I liked the statement above “I think I will write that song”. Yes, and you should title it “Walk by Faith”

    • Ooh, I am tempted to call the fox closer! No cats here BUT a bobcat and coyotes have been spotted on numerous occasions. I’ll think on that one before I get the ‘cottontail caller’ (poor bunnies)!

  14. This is one of the more articulate and well-thought our blogs I’ve ever read. It’s also very timely for me. I want you to know that as I sit in a local hospital waiting for my husband to recover, I have wrestled with the very things you have highlighted here. Some days, that struggle is every single moment. Other days it’s a random thought that sneaks into my brain when I least expect it.
    Thank you for this. I will read it over and over and cherish the heart felt compassion and honesty that went into putting it on paper.

    • Parella, thank you for taking the time to read and to share your struggle.May you find peace of heart and mind as your husband recovers!

  15. Hi Christine,

    I’ve heard that Rabi’s are fond of saying that “coincidence” is not a Kosher Word.

    Regardless of whether something happened “by accident” or “by design”, what’s important is what we do with it. My family loves you guys.

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