Moving a Cat

Mar10

Caring for a cat has taught me many things about myself and God and our relationship. Non-cat-lovers might roll their eyes, but it’s true. Here’s the most recent example.

Last week we moved our belongings from Pennsylvania to Indiana. That included my cat, much to her dismay. The trip presented countless strange sights and smells, the roar and rattle of a moving van, and many unexpected jolts and bumps. It also meant 8 hours in a carrier one day, and 4 the next. Now—although I have seen said cat squeeze herself into many less desirable places—the fact that the incarceration in her carrier was for such an extended period of time, and not of her own choosing, left my feline friend less than happy. She yowled loud and long, often biting and scratching and growling for emphasis.

A friend, considering my cat’s point of view, remarked, “Well, I guess as far as she knows, this arrangement is permanent. She doesn’t know there’s an end in sight.”

And, bing! The light bulb went on and another lesson presented itself. So, here is what I would say to my cat if I could, and what I believe God whispers to each of us in times of trouble or distress.

1. I am here, and I still care.
I wanted very much to take my cat out of the carrier, to hold her, pet her, and comfort her. But she had to stay in that little bag for her own protection; it was the safest place for her. My kitty was probably unable to understand my stand-offishness. She could have accused me of being distant and uncaring. But I heard every pathetic mew, and my heart ached at her distress.

2. This pain has a purpose.
I could have tried to prepare the cat for the move; I might have shown her a map of our route. Neither would have done any good. As far as she could understand, this unexpected, unexplainable trauma came from out of the blue and served no rational purpose whatsoever.

3. This too shall pass.
My cat’s plight would not last forever. I knew the exact duration and destination of our trip. But she had no way of knowing that this was only a temporary transition, nor where or when the tortuous trip would end—if ever!

4. I have only your best in mind.
I had seen the place we were moving to, and knew the cat would like it. It has lots of windows and there are no other cats around. There’s even a room just for her! Better yet, it allowed her to stay under my care. This disruption in my cat’s life represented the best I had to offer, despite the discomfort it caused her.

Just as there’s no way my cat could grasp the details of our move, neither can you or I understand the intricacies of God’s master plan, or how our little lives fit into it. If the communication gap is so wide between two created, earth-dwelling beings of flesh and blood, just think how great it must be between us and the Eternal Self-Existing Limitless God of the Universe—try as He might to get through to us.

But the great comfort is this: His best is always truly Good. He never errs in judgment or lapses in His care for us. And someday, when we arrive at our final Home, we are going to be very glad for the journey that brought us there.

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Loving Her

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I spent the month of August living with and caring for my grandma, who is in the early stages of dementia. It was a bittersweet time as I grieved to see how this disease was robbing someone I loved of reason and functionality, while at the same time enjoying the moments when her old spark and personality shone through.

I grew up near my grandparents, and we were very close. In their presence I always felt completely loved and secure; they showed me what a healthy marriage looked like; they impressed on me so many of the life values that I carry to this day. My grandpa, even more than my grandma, played a vital part in my formation as he stepped in and took on roles that my own father left unfilled. Grandpa has been gone six years now and we all miss him. Especially grandma. We can trace the beginnings of her decline to the dark days after my grandpa died.

As I cared for grandma I did it in honor of the person she has been, and in love for the ways she touched my life. But some days were more difficult than others. Sometimes she was unreasonable. Sometimes she was despondent. Sometimes—out of her confusion and growing inability to regulate her emotions—she became angry and hurtful. At those times I felt my patience and resolve wearing thin.

But then I thought of my grandpa. I thought of how he had worked hard to provide for her. How he had shielded her from some of the harsher realities of life. How he had loved her tenderly as a soul mate and friend. I thought of how he would grieve to see her present decline and I could picture how gently he would treat her if he were here. And in those difficult moments I could still care for her because I loved him. Because I honored him. I would think, “This one is for you, grandpa.”

As time went by, I began to realize a deeper application for this lesson. You see, I have been struggling with the church for a while. With growing alarm I am coming to see that the body of Christ is sick. Disease and dysfunction rob it of reason and vitality. It can be viciously hurtful to both insiders and outsiders alike. And my response has been to become disillusioned and distant.

But in that month with my grandma, I heard Jesus asking me to love the church, His bride.

I must first of all love her because I am her offspring. There are still glimmers of life—still hope—because something dead could never reproduce. And, as imperfect as she might be, I have been formed and shaped by her.

But even more than that, I must love her because I love Him. He who is so dear to my soul gave Himself for her existence. She is His cherished and precious bride, who He longs for and continually nurtures. With eyes of love He sees her potential beauty, even when she is being downright ugly.

So many questions remain as I consider loving the bride of Christ. What is the essence of the church? How do I recognize it? Is it a building? An event? An institution? No way. Is it the individuals, is it the group? Yes and yes, but… ???

And what does love actually look like? How do I love this schizophrenic, harsh and healing, deeply damaging and sometimes life-giving entity that I can’t even define? Is love tough? Is love tender? Yes and yes, but… ???

I am at a loss for answers. But I do know that as I sat by the pond behind my grandparents’ house I found myself walking along another shore with my Lord and Lover, and I heard Him asking quietly, earnestly:

“Do you love Me? …Tend My lambs.”

“Do you love Me? …Shepherd my sheep.”

“Do you love Me? …Take care of my bride. Love her.”