In light of the Fourth of July, I’d been planning to write about freedom – not just the freedom that we enjoy and take for granted as Americans, but the more lasting freedom which only comes from Christ. Freedom is still my theme but with a new angle due to my recent observations. I’ve learned some things this week from my cat.
Yes, that’s right. Steve and I adopted a rescue cat on Tuesday. We debated about getting a dog, but we love to travel, and the bottom line is that cats are cheaper and easier. Fully intending to take an adorable kitten home from the shelter, we found our hearts captured by an affectionate older tabby cat instead. We watched this tomcat groom all the kittens and keep them in line, then rub up against our legs. If animals have spiritual gifts, which of course they don’t, his would be the gift of encouragement. And so we re-named him Barnabas (Barney) after the New Testament encourager and decided to pay it back to him by giving him a home. Since Barnabas spent most of his two years in a cage, later moved to a small room at the shelter shared by about 30 cats, we expected him to be jubilant to finally have space and freedom. Instead, once released from his cardboard pet carrier, he went straight to his litterbox, new but with a familiar purpose, and warily watched the world from this safe perch.
Our cat had been institutionalized. Like convicts finally released from prison, he seemed to want to return to his familiar, thereby less-frightening, incarceration. Like us as followers of Christ, set free from the weight of sin and yet often returning to its lure and bondage, refusing to believe that there isn’t a catch to this idea of grace. We offered Barney freedom and he chose a litterbox instead. A whole world of birds and trees and bugs called to him and yet he settled for a box used for refuse.
Now, on his fifth day with us, Barney has bravely ventured out of his hiding place and explored the perimeter of our house. His natural cat instincts, fear and curiosity, war with each other, just as our desire to do what’s right wars against our sin nature. And yet, for now, his desire to be free and experience the fullness of his cat life have overtaken his fear of the unknown.