Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Gratitude of the Beloved

Jean-Luc got out this morning. That's not so unusual. Jean-Luc is an indoor cat, with aspirations that lean towards arctic explorer. It is easy for him to imagine himself plodding through the frozen tundra, exploring the icy nooks and crannies of our little neighbourhood, especially when he is sitting on a warm window ledge in the sun, looking out at the world. Once the frost starts building up on his whiskers and his toes get snow packed, the dream dies a quick, shivery death.

Then comes the meowing at the door. Loud. Insistent. Bold. One would think he had not just slipped out behind my back only 15 minutes before. One would think a mad dash for the closing door, risking injury to head and/or tail, would result in a longer escape outdoors.

Sometimes I am tempted to leave him out in the cold for a while. Teach him a lesson. But I never do. I can tell from the tone of his meowing that he fully believes that if I can hear his requests to come inside, I will open the door for him. Such confidence cannot be denied. If I did not open the door for him, he would not think me strong, or wise, or a lesson-teacher. He would think me deaf. Or asleep. Or away.

So, I open the door when he calls. Every time. As soon as I hear him.

There is something about his faith in me that inspires me to be there when he calls.

The thing is, as beautiful and funny and sweet as he is, he is not the brightest bulb in the pack. One evening this past week, we had a guest who smoked, and Jean-Luc escaped four times, every time our guest headed outside to smoke a cigarette. He forgets how cold it is out there. The world calls his name and he can't help but answer, the consequences of his last escapade long forgotten even if it took place just minutes ago.

In this, he reminds me of myself. How often do I head out into the "world", to do my own thing, to mess with something that is better off unmessed with? I screw up, lose my temper, do something that I know God doesn't want me to do, and find myself out in the cold, on the wrong side of the door. Calling to be let in.

It's not that God turns me out. I run out, on my own. And it's not like God forgets me or rejects me, anymore than I forget or reject Jean-Luc when he manages to scoot outside despite my best efforts. In fact, I am rarely more aware of him than when he is outside. There is danger out there. Cars. Dogs. Mean people. When Jean-Luc is out from under the umbrella of my protection, my heart and mind are on him constantly. I believe this is a reflection of God's heart for me.

When I am rebelling against God, and stray out from under His protection, He moves Heaven and Earth to bring me back. To bring us back. When He hears my cry, He answers. Always. Everytime. No matter what.

So, maybe I am a wuss where Jean-Luc is concerned. Maybe it's lame of me to jump whenever I hear him calling. And when he is curled up in my lap, leaving puddles of melted toe snow all over me, maybe it does occur to me that he needs to learn a lesson.

Then, I hear his purring, and remember the confident, expectant cry from outside the door. I recognize that cry. I recognize that confidence, that faith in someone who loves us more that we know, who asks, "What do you need?" instead of, "What do you deserve?"

I know what it is like, to see the door swing wide open, to feel the warmth flow out to me, from within. I have felt the strong hand of comfort on my back, as the ice melts from me and life is restored.

People say that cats score low on the gratitude scale. I beg to differ. After a quick bite from the food dish, I am usually the first place he comes to rest, the first warmth he seeks. He purrs, and trills, and rubs his soft, sleek body into mine.

His, like mine, is the gratitude of the beloved. We are secure in the passionate love of someone greater than ourselves, someone who knows how to open the door for us when we can't do it ourselves. Someone whose ear is tuned into our voice, our need, our cry. Can we respond in any other way but to return love in the greatest measure possible?

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