Over a month ago, one of the three feral cats that hang around our house went missing after we heard a vicious midnight fight in the woods. We grieved the loss because “Booties,” with his clean white paws, was the friendliest of the three.
But one morning last week, my wife noticed movement in the window of the shed about 60 feet from the house. She went closer and saw the face of a cat staring out at her through the window and could hear faint mewling. Long story short, we rejoiced as eventually Booties crept out to meet us!
He was severely dehydrated and emaciated. Perhaps he had mice, lizards and insects to catch and rainwater to drink during his confinement, but Booties surely must have used 8.5 of his 9 lives since disappearing. To us, it was a little miracle.
Now, after plenty of food, water and rest, he seems hardly the worse for wear for what we estimate to have been three and a half weeks stuck in the shed. But he has had a change of attitude. Suddenly, he has become more like a dog than a cat, and won’t leave my side. He craves attention, affection and follows us all over the yard.
We reflected on what he must have gone through in that shed. It must have been awful for him to sit inside the shed, hearing the cats being called, seeing them being fed and his humans watering the garden. Was he staring out the window, watching the good life pass him by?
Is that what eternity will be like for humans separated from God? For eternity, they will see what they were intended to have and enjoy, but because they had chosen to reject God and his salvation, they will be unable to partake of, and enjoy, heaven. Longingly watching what they miss will indeed be excruciating punishment. Like the cat in the shed, they will be so close, yet so far away.
It is so amazing to watch this cat and his attitude toward us. We saved his life, against all hope of it ever being discovered alive, and set him free. He now adores us and actually desires to be with us, even more than eating the food we provide.
The other two community cats will come near us when we feed them or deign to give us a nudge of thanks if they are in the mood. But that is as much affection or appreciation as they show. Perhaps they feel they really don’t need us, and the food and water will just be there waiting for them every day. But Booties’ new level of love, adoration and loyalty are heartwarming.
I began to think of the theological implications of Booties’ reaction toward those who saved his life. Many people reading this column are aware that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Some have believed and been rescued by him.
But in response, most of us behave like our other feral cats. We meet with God when we are going to get a free meal, or some other blessing, but then we go off and do our own thing the rest of the time. Like them, we know God will meet our needs, so we give him the occasional nudge to say thanks.
This is what we can learn from Booties’ experience: Because we have been rescued by Jesus, shouldn’t it be natural for us to love and adore him? Shouldn’t we love to be with him? Shouldn’t appreciation flow out of us all day long, and shouldn’t we run to him whenever we get the chance? When we used to be spiritually starving, thirsty, lonely and helpless, and we fully understand that we have been rescued, that’s when we can’t thank our Savior enough.
Being rescued by God should result in a lifestyle of gratitude. Psalm 107:1 says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Read the rest of the Psalm for the whole meaning of this concept.
Are you like the cat in the shed? Looking out and seeing others enjoying the peace of mind and the blessings given by God, but you are trapped in your unhappy life? Or have you experienced being unable to save yourself and cried out to your Savior? Have you experienced him setting you free?
And now that you are free, do you live like the ungrateful feral cats that only come around for the goodies? Or do you look for every opportunity to fellowship with the One who saved you, loves you and provides for you?
Which cat are you?
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at email@example.com.