Sunday, January 27, 2013

                                 What a Stray Cat Taught Me about Faith

I spent more than the first half a century of my life as a cat hater. I had no use for them. I’m a committed dog lover. I could never figure out why anyone would want to have a cat as a pet. During the peak of the housing defaults, many people in our neighborhood left their cats behind. It didn’t surprise me they would do this, because I couldn’t imagine anyone liking cats.

Our daughter Kate decided she’d use her own money (because I wouldn’t waste mine) to buy a bed, and supply cat food for those cats left behind. Skitty was one of the first cats to take Kate take up on her offer of food and shelter. Kate named her Skitty because for the first year she would get close but not allow anyone to touch her. Eventually she learned to accept affection from Kate. Now Kate can pick her up, pet her, or call her from anywhere, and she will come running to Kate.

My relationship to Skitty was weird from the start. For the first year, I noticed she was willing to rub herself on the box-wood. In fact she preferred to do this rather than accept affection from Kate. During phase I simply thought of her in the same way I thought of any cat, which was to say I thought Skitty was dumb cat. It wasn’t personal, my Skitty confirmed my belief that every cat was a dumb cat.

Over the course of the next 2 years, Skitty and I developed a strange relationship. Eventually, I took to feeding her. I discovered while she’d accept food from my hand, she’d never let me pet her. This confirmed my bias toward cats and even though I fed her, I still though Skitty was as I thought all cats are…..dumb.

Even though Skitty wanted nothing to do with me, she began doing something very strange. When I would take my dog for a walk around the block, she’d follow us the entire way. Sometimes staying so close, I have my dog sit, and I’d stop the walk just to sit down and take the time to feed both Skitty and my dog.  Skitty would follow us on a ½ mile walk any time she was around to see us begin our walk.

People who saw us walking together were simply amazed that a dog and cat would walk together. They assumed I had a close relationship with this cat who followed me and the dog around the block as if we were all best friends. They were always amazed to learn that Skitty who would come to me, put her paws on my pants and reach for food, would high tail it in the opposite direction if reached down to rub her.

Skitty and I have known each other for 3 years now. I can call her, and if she’s in earshot she’ll come running to me at the sound of my voice calling out “Skitty, Skitty, Skitty”. She’ll visit me in my garage without an invitation. She continues to walk around the block with us when my wife, dog and I go for a walk.

 On very rare occasions she allows me to pet her. I’ve learned never to assume that means we’ve become friends. In the next hour or on the next day she’ll run away at the site of my hand coming toward her. She hasn’t changed that much in the last 3 years, but I have. I no longer think of Skitty as a dumb cat. She’s become a loyal friend, who comes to me when I call, and continues to join us on walks around the block. A few days in every month she’ll allow me to spend time rubbing her and enjoying my touch. It never lasts. Skitty always returns to being skittish in my company.  Kate gave her an appropriate name.

You may wonder what I could possibly learn about my faith from Skitty. I learned I’m a lot like Skitty. I learned there is a lot of Skitty in me. Skitty will not permit me to offer my best to her on a regular basis. Most of the time, she continues to choose inanimate objects to rub herself on, even when sitting close by and long to pet her. On those rare moments she’ll choose my hand or my leg to rub on. More often and not I’ll sit close by hoping she’ll choose me over the box-wood, but that rarely ever happens.

I’m sad to admit this but my relationship with Skitty often resembles my relationship with the Lord. In times of crisis, I’m like Skitty, I cry out to the Lord, I want and seek out His intimate presence and comfort. I’m not alone in this propensity. In fact the entire Old Testament is filled this awful pattern. God reaches out and does something miraculous in the lives of the Jewish people and nation. For a short time they respond with a grateful heart. As time goes on they drift away.

This isn’t limited issue isn’t limited to Old Testament times and the Jewish people. A hymn was written about this very issue. The title is Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing. The words “Prone to wonder Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, describes our doing to the Lord what Skitty does to me.

On those days I sit beside  Skitty longing for her to make the right choice and accept my affection. Most of the time it’s rejected. Skitty will accept some good from me, but keeps herself away from experiencing the best. Our Lord longs for us to draw close every day, and if we do, we will receive His best. If we remain like Skitty, we will miss God’s best blessings for our lives.

Jesus provides those us who are prone to wonder, the parable of the lost sheep. With this story, He makes it clear no matter how long or how far we’ve been prone to wonder, He will welcome us back with open arms. If we allow the Skitty in us to pull away in those moments, we’ll live our lives on the periphery of God’s blessings. If we accept the embrace the creator of the universe always and without fail welcomes us into His open arms.

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