Here's the thing: I never wanted a cat. I don't like cats. They're picky and mean and aloof. I like dogs with their sloppy kisses, unflinching loyalty and primal hugability. Dogs are friends. Cats are more like enemies that live in your house and occasionally pretend they like you long enough to get something from you before they turn on you and shred every toilet paper roll in the house.
So, not a fan of cats.
But then my kids started asking for a pet. And I started thinking through life with a dog. Dogs are messy. And big. And require quite a lot of maintenance and, of course, hugging. You have to walk a dog. And feed it in small portions so it doesn't binge on kibble and throw up on your rug.
Maybe I'm not a dog person after all?
And then, one day I come home to discover kittens in my garage. Six perfect kittens. Yes, they're feral. Yes, they hiss at me every time I get close. Yes, you can see the fleas crawling across their eyeballs. But, come on! Look at them! They're perfect.
So, I do the only thing a sane person can do when she finds adorable kittens in her garage, I try to catch one. And fail miserably. They crawl through cracks, hide under the mower (please little kitty don't slice yourself under the mower!), and otherwise evade capture. With only one cat remaining in my garage, I grab a towel, corner her, and throw said towel over her face like I'm a member of the cartel and plan to collect a kitty ransom.
This is the story of how I first met Professor Minerva McGonagall, named by my children, Harry Potter fans with high expectations of this very small, quite anxious, now captive cat.
Over the past few months we've taught Minerva to... abide us. I can't say love us. Maybe tolerate or occasionally acknowledge us. We feed her. We've given her dozens of flea treatments. We offer her toys of several sorts. And in response she sometimes lies down in our general vicinity. It's the best she can do.
She is a cat, after all.
Sometimes though, sometimes things are different. Tonight was different. Tonight I picked up Minerva and put her in my lap. She stayed tense but also stayed put. I ran my fingers between her ears and down her back. She closed her eyes and purrrrred. For ten minutes she kept those eyes closed. She leaned in, moved her head to find my hand if I didn't maintain a precise rhythm. She seemed settled and safe, relaxed, and pleased. For ten minutes my cat liked me, wanted me, belonged with me.
I love that cat. And seeing her love me, just for a moment... What a joy that was.
I know this is a stretch but (bear with me) I wonder if I'm God's cat--schizophrenically liking and disliking Him, abiding His provision (accepting it even) all the while striking out on my own, living next to Him but not WITH Him. I wonder if He wishes I'd crawl into His lap more or give Him some reason to think I'm thankful He's my master. I wonder if He's frustrated by the way I hiss when he tries to rescue me from the weird places I get myself stuck or if He shakes His head when I try to run away only to get scared and run back home, skirting His ankles as I sneak past Him through the doorway.
I wonder if God wishes He'd picked dogs.
Here's something I don't wonder. This I know: God loves it when we love Him.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." It's the first and greatest command. I figure that means when we keep it, God is most and greatly pleased.
When we love God, I imagine He feels a lot like I did tonight on the couch with my cat.
Cat people say cats are the best pets because when they love you it's real. It's not like with dogs who love indiscriminately, who'll lick anybody with food. If a cat loves you, it's true love (and also maybe a miracle).
C.S. Lewis wrote,
"Free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they've got to be free."
I want to use my freedom well. Not at all like a fickle cat. I want to spend my days close to Him, thanking Him, praising Him, serving Him... I want to love God and in loving Him, to please Him.
What a beautiful privilege.