As I was sitting & reading in our backyard I had a knot of anxiety in my stomach that I was trying to ignore. We had just received a letter informing us that an annual grant we receive of $4,000 wouldn’t be given to us any longer. I was trying to calm down and let my mind stop spinning with questions like: how are we going to replace those funds in this crappy economy? and the questions went on and on like this until and long after I ate a raspberry cream cheese muffin and washed it down with a mug of decaf vanilla coffee. I hate when I emotionally eat 🙁
Stray cats often wander into our backyard much to the excitement of our own cats Conan O’Brian and G.K. Chesterton whose tails flick back and forth as they watch these free-roamin’ kitties from their perch on the window sill.
When I was outdoors that day reading Red Moon Rising, about the 24/7 prayer movement across the world, the sky was streaked with clouds & it was one of those glorious cool-yet-sunny autumn days. Yet I still felt anxious, stressed and tired even as the sun warmed my face. As I read through story after story of God’s faithfulness to people- to answer prayers for rain in a country that had experienced severe drought, to heal people of physical conditions, to make the impossible possible it did slightly encourage me & help me to be reminded- o.k. Jesus, even when things seem like they’re in the crapper- you are still present, you are still in control. But it still felt like- “well, you do cool things for these people, but what about the stuff that’s happening to me today?”
At one moment I heard a sound near my feet & I looked down to see one of our stray cats, white with striped spots. It was purring & nuzzling my chair, clearly longing to be petted and scratched. My heart melted- much to the chagrin of some family members, I’ve become a cat person. These stray cats never come near us, they always run away and eye us warily if we go back to the back yard to pick a tomato or let Reuben play in his sandbox. When white kitty was nuzzling my chair & I was stroking the soft while fur I just looked up to the wispy clouds & thought- “God, you knew that I needed this today, you knew I’d need to be encouraged by an unlikely presence & reminder that you care for me.” You might think I’m a total nutter to think that the God of the universe speaks to me in the form of a stray cat begging to be petted, but Jesus often shows up at weird times in my life and catches me off guard. But thats the funny thing about Jesus he cares for each of us in such deeply personal ways when we have a relationship with him! He knew that rather some deep theological truth about prayer that I was reading about, that I would be best encouraged by a white cat who almost seemed to smile showing his pink gums & pointy teeth as I scratched his chin.
Our instinct is to compartmentalize and polarize- God is either big and majestic, far away doing too many important things to be triflin’ with our pleas that the grocery store will still be open to buy milk & eggs. Or God is like a friend, there when we need to pour our hearts to someone who cares, someone who leaves us little notes of encouragement to say “hey, I’m thinking about you.” When I look at my life and I look at these perspectives of God I can’t help but see both. I can’t help but see a God who powerfully delivered the Israelites from slavery when they were being oppressed by the Egyptians any more than I can’t help but see a God who spoke to murderous Saul on Damascus road and asked “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” I can’t help but see it this way because this is what Jesus has been like in my own life- powerful and majestic and yet close as a friend. Yes, there have been times where I have felt alone and abandoned by God- but then I’m able to read a note of encouragement from Jesus himself that says “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” even if I feel like he has. Even if it takes me a long time to feel this and not just know it.
In her book, Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott likened Jesus to a stray cat waiting outside her room to be let in. I remembered this later that day after white kitty had nuzzled up against my chair. Whether you are a “religious” or “spiritual” person, I’m guessing that if you reflect on moments in your life, even if you don’t see it recently, there have been times where it’s been like Jesus shows up like a stray cat in your life- scratching at the door wanting to be let in, hanging around letting you know he isn’t going anywhere. Eating garbage scraps out of your trash can. Oh wait, no, that’s not Jesus, just cats do that. Chalk it up to what you want, but I believe there is a majestic and personal God named Jesus who would love nothing more than for you to acknowledge his presence in your life.