After providing a home and family to too many felines during our marriage, I can’t say we were happy when our last cat passed, but we did decide to enjoy being full empty nesters.
Six months later, our visiting grandchildren brought in a visiting, just weaned kitten. Adamantly, Sheila agreed to keep it just overnight to find the owners, and she would put up “Lost Cat” signs the next day while I worked. Heading home with no signs in sight, I found him curled up on her lap, purring. “If they want him, they can put up the signs” was her response to my raised eyebrows.
We called him Sandy for the color of his coat, but Lover Boy fit him more. None of our 20 or so cats ever cuddled so close, needed connection so much, and cleansed my beard of wayward moisture after a shower.
Nine months passed, and another stray crawled under a gap in the fence from the same direction Sandy arrived from, and hung out by our patio slider. Squirting water didn’t dissuade her, nor did rocks cast in her vicinity. Still we determined one was enough, until she got pregnant and chose our patio for her delivery room. Compassion conquered common sense, and we named her Allie, my grandmother’s name, following our recent pattern of naming cats. Yeah, Allie Cat figured in. We adopted out her kittens, fixed her and got her the shots, and grudgingly allowed her to stay.
But those first several months of being semi-feral shaped her. Not a mellow and loving Sandy at all, she jumped at an unexpected move and ran at a sneeze. But she saw the affection Sandy gave and received, and began to want more than food and shelter from us. Ironically, her first moves were to roll on her back for belly rubs, in her most vulnerable position.
Nine years later, Sandy passed from feline leukemia, and she became #1 cat in the house, and continues to grow in closeness. Most mornings I rise and head for the bathroom, when she scratches at the door, I open it, and she rubs against my legs and gets pets for several minutes. Then, having begun the day by reconnecting with these huge family members, she strolls out. Still not a Sandy, but not her original Allie either.
We all have a similar need for connecting. For some, like Sandy, it comes easy and natural. For others, we struggle more, either from our innate disposition or painful experiences. Yes, we know we can’t love God and not love people, and yes, we know loving means letting them into our lives, disrupting our plans, making ourselves vulnerable, and inviting disappointment and betrayal.
Loving people is much easier in the abstract than the specific, isn’t it? We can always find some needed reasons to keep people, or some people, at a distance. And yes, that sometimes is necessary. Despite our best efforts, we can’t live in peace with all (Romans 12:18).
But to allow Jesus to recreate us more fully in his image, we need to cooperate with him to the best of our ability to connect with people in a deep, genuine manner. Obviously, we can’t with all, but we need these connections for support, advice, accountability, and better just plain fun. Why? Because they each have enough value for Jesus to die for them. Because only in loving them can we demonstrate our professed love for Jesus.
Yes, we’ll get hurt. We will also hurt others, which should break our hearts. But in calculating the risks and rewards, the latter wins. Easily.
Kick Starting the Application
Where do you come down in the ease of crafting healthy connections with others? Why is it easy or difficult for you (try to dig deep and honestly on this one)? How important are deep connections to you in light of following Jesus? Try to pick out one person that you can begin to nurture more depth with in this coming week. After a month, can you let me know what happened, OK?