I am not really what you would call a ‘cat person’. I have loved dogs all of my life. But last year around my mother’s birthday when tropical storm Beryl put the city of Jacksonville under alert, a certain kitty who had been frolicking in the yard for weeks, decided that it was time to come in from the rain. In my walk with God, I can relate.
This funny relationship began in mid-April 2012 when we started to play “cat and mouse”. In this version, the mouse (that would be me) would leave food on the back porch. She would make it disappear. In the aftermath of her Houdini appearance, she would resume frolicking in the yard and exposing her underside to the warmth of the sun’s rays. Thinking that she was just passing through, I was content to enjoy her free spirit while she was here.
I began to grow attached to this fuzzy little visitor as April turned into May. Since I lost my mother in December of 1999, the month of May was often difficult emotionally for me as it held memories of celebrating both my Mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day. Several personal hardships piled up to add to this burden so I welcomed the distraction. The appearance of the kitty gave me something to look forward to and a sense of caring for something other than myself. I wanted to love her and keep her from danger. But, she would not have it. She ran from my earnest desire to make her my own. I could only provide the minimum of attention by providing some food and water on the porch. I had to assume that it was her eating the food overnight on the days that I did not see her in the yard.
When the summer rains began to set in, I was worried. Her favorite hiding place under the house began to flood. Though she would later discover the relative safety of the garage rafters, she would be forced to face the elements directly as she pondered her options. With forethought, I purchased a can of salmon and knew that I would save the scraps as a special enticement. Carefully, I placed the food in a container, set it on the porch, and left the back door open. The deliberation process was intense. Eventually, after running back into the yard and then through the house several times, she settled at my feet. I brought in her food from the back porch, closed the door, and now she was mine. Mine to keep close to me, protect, love, and keep from danger.
This week, my mother would have been 87. But instead, I celebrated a year with my little Skinny Diva who is not so skinny anymore. I wanted to share my little ‘plumpenheimer’ with the world. My healthy Halloween kitty—beautiful black shiny coat and intense yellow eyes, responded in a way that I could not imagine. When I took her out with me, she was scared and escaped under a building. I thought I had lost her. In fact, for two grueling days, I did lose her. I prayed. Other people prayed. I wept. I earnestly searched for her. But, I could do nothing but wait until she found her way home.
And then, it hit me. For the past several weeks, I had been attending church, trying to recommit my life by getting close to God. But you see, I have played my own cat and mouse game with God. I want to frolic in the sun. God must have watched and smiled at my simple pleasures as He waited patiently to bring me close. He gave me ‘food’ to remind me that He was there. He watched as I stealthily enjoyed the sustenance without really getting too close. When I had gotten close enough so that He could celebrate and reveal His greater plans for me, I become afraid of the unknown. Like my Skinny, I jumped from His arms in fear thinking, “Where are you taking me? This can’t be good!” And then I run and hide in places that hold far more danger than the place where the One who loves and cares for me was leading me.
Skinny did not come home that evening for dinner. I missed her fuzzy little face at my window already. Encouraged by some friends, we eased our minds thinking that she was on a romantic liaison with one of the neighborhood cats. But in my heart, I continued to worry. A second dinner passed with more visits to the last place she had hidden herself. I can only imagine how amusing it must have been for the restaurant guests across the street to upon seeing this middle-aged woman crawling about on my knees and hearing my cat-call whistles amidst the shouts of “Skinny, Skinny Diva”. I am certain that they were pleasantly surprised by the outdoor entertainment included with their meals. But I was on a mission, so I kept calling. But when I did not hear her normal response to my cat-call whistle (a very pleasant meow acknowledgment), I knew that at least she was not stuck under the building or somehow incapacitated. Still, it did not bring me any sense of comfort when I made another drive through the neighborhood whistling and calling her name.
I went home that second evening hoping I would see her at my window. Nothing. I kept asking myself, “Why did she run? Didn’t she know that she was mine and that I was going with her on this journey?” Like a sudden ‘pop’, this thought landed in my head. I kept fearing ‘where and why’ I was going instead of focusing on ‘Who’ I was going with. The real basis for my greatest fear should have been heading somewhere WITHOUT my caregiver. This time I wept for my time away from home. This time I wept for being satisfied with the scraps. This time I wept for not trusting the One who knew the way.
In the wee hours of the morning, I awoke. I thought I had heard something but no Skinny. I went to the bathroom and then rested my head on the pillow. I could not sleep. About a half hour later, I heard another sound. This time, Skinny was waiting at my window. I was so happy I threw open the window and hugged her. I ran my hands along her soft, little body checking for any evidence of any physical harm. My prodigal kitty, I laughed, was no worse for wear. She ran to the area where I kept her food but I had emptied the contents when she did not come home. Clearly, she was hungry and a little bit dirty. But, she had found her way home. So I brought her to the kitchen to fetch a big bowl of dry food with a side of wet. As I filled her water bowl, I watched her with such joy as she intensely devoured her kitty kibble. I smiled again thinking that she had long since overcome her stealthy approach to chow.
I pondered how easy it was to assume the worst when brought into unfamiliar territory. She must have thought I was going to abandon her. She must have thought I was going to take her to a new place that would not be safe. It broke my heart. Like I said earlier, I can relate. I don’t know if she understood, but I told her that I loved her and that I was not going to hurt her. I wanted her to come with me. I was not going to leave her alone. Oh, that I can remember these thoughts when I feel abandoned and fear what the future may hold during the hardships that life has brought my way.
Lord, help me to remember not to run away from the safety of your arms. Help me to trust you, Lord. Help me to stay close. Help me to remember you are coming with me. I am not alone.