Living a Christian life requires a great sense of adventure, curiosity, trust, and a recognition that some things are too serious to be faced alone. In a real way, Christian life is like going to the library with a cat.
This morning, my grandson and I set out walking to our local library for story-time. Our cat noticed our departure and began to follow after us. She often follows us around the block or to the local park, so it was not out of character for her to come along. None of the cats that normally give her an argument about passing through their territory were around today, so it was smooth sailing until we got half way around and surprised her. Instead of turning the second corner, we walked across the street and down the next block. She was a bit surprised, but gamely followed, probably thinking we simply planned to walk around two blocks instead of one. By the time we had crossed two more streets and were still going away from home, she was getting a bit nervous, but now she wasn’t sure she wanted to let us out of her sight. We were getting to be a long ways from her territory. A few more blocks and she was positive she was on very thin ice.
One block from the library, two relatively busy streets meet at a four-way stop. We waited for the cat to catch up with us just before the corner. My grandson carried the bag with the book we were returning and I picked up the cat. This in itself was quite a feat as she and I have had a rather rocky relationship through the years due to differing opinions regarding the place of a cat in a household. Nevertheless, she was quite willing to be carried across the the first street and tolerated being carried across the second. Then she wanted DOWN. NOW! So I let her down.
At that moment, what should arrive but two large, noisy dragons, screeching in protest as they bore down on the intersection from opposite directions. (Humans might have said they were garbage trucks, but she knew the truth of the matter. They were definitely fearsome dragons.) She tried to escape through a picket fence but found that she was too big. So in a moment of total panic, she turned and raced across the street in front of the dragons, hoping they would not turn and chase her. Fortunately, they did notice (or at least their drivers did) and they patiently waited for her to make her escape.
We followed after her when it was safe, calling to her reassuringly, but she remained safely hidden in the bushes in front of one of the houses. So we left her there and went to story-time, where we enjoyed some lovely tales of children’s gardening adventures. The librarian had bean seeds for the children to plant after decorating a pot in which the seeds could sprout. We returned our library book and found another before leaving the library about 45 minutes later.
Crossing the street again, we called and whistled for our cat. (Yes, she does come when we whistle for her.) With obvious relief, she emerged from the bushes and once again began to follow us, but the cars zooming down the street clearly were frightening to her. When we got to the corner, we waited and again called her. She came and allowed me to pick her up once more to cross the street. By the time we got to the other side, she was jumping out of my arms with nervousness, wanting to be sure she could find a safe place if necessary. We continued on our way home and she followed a little ways behind. Sometimes she stopped to explore something interesting, then hurried to catch up with us. By the time we got home, she was one tired cat. She spent most of the rest of the day sleeping close to the screen doors on the deck, not wanting to be far away from me at all. Once she even invited me to pet her.
Reflecting on our adventure, the thought struck me that our Christian lives are not all that different from the experience of that cat. We may start out our daily journey with an idea of what is ahead of us. We’ve been down this road in the past. We know where we’re going and what to expect along the way. But then someone throws us a curve ball. Something is different and unexpected. We trust the Lord, so we keep going forward, but we look around nervously, watching for those who might challenge or hurt us. Sometimes we hide for a bit until we’re sure it’s safe to come out. Sometimes we try to stay very close to anything or anyone familiar to us, even those who haven’t been our favorites in the past. When things get really dangerous or hard for us, sometimes the Lord picks us up and carries us across to a safer place. But then we get scared again and run away to hide. Always, though, the Lord sticks around and waits for us. He calls us by name and carries us to safety again and again. Then, when we reach our home again, he strokes us kindly and smiles at us fondly. And who would not melt with joy to be safely at home with such a One.
Yes, the Christian life can be like going to the library with a cat.
Orange Tabby Cat by Robert & Mihaela Vicol, PublicPhoto.org