He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
(Jn. 1.10-13 NRSVA)
There is this story about cats and dogs, and their owners. S/he feeds me, s/he waters me, s/he gives me shelter, s/he grooms me, s/he must be God. That’s what a dog is supposed to think. And then there is the proposed cat thinking: S/he feeds me, s/he waters me, s/he gives me shelter, s/he grooms me, I must be God.
Let us look at it closer though. Dogs. The spoken and written tradition has created a stereotypical Ueber-dog who is faithful (Hachikō), obedient (Rin Tin Tin), loving (Lassie), worshipful (Beethoven), creative (all of the above). Dogs work hard: they herd animals, help in hunting, sniff out drugs, watch children (although that is probably like herding animals anyway), guard places and are generally companions to humankind in all its diversity. Some dogs are easily trained. Some dogs even remember their training. Most dogs follow their owners, well, doggedly.
Now, the cats are another matter altogether. They do work hard, keeping their territories free of pests. They are ever the hunters, fiercely independent.
Cats go where they please. Even domesticated and living in our homes, cats are… well… wildish. Some cats are cuddly, some cats, not so much. A cat, as the C16 proverb goes, may look at a king, and, apparently, rule the scene. Another proverb proclaims the futility of herding cats.
Cats seem to be rather worldly, and self-contained, to the point of being self-centred and quite a lot of those other self-starting adjectives we have. Cats are lazy at building relationships, they do not seem to care much for the other party. Sometimes they are just shy, and often wary. Maybe there are reasons for that. Cats tend to turn up or turn to their owner when they want something – food, snacks, more snacks or a cuddle and play.
There. Let’s poke some eyes with a metaphorical finger and ask a loaded question. Which of these lovely stereotypes correspond to the stereotypical Western Christian view of human — God relationships?
John puts it rather bluntly. “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
One day my oldest cat, Da Kat, went out, as is his habit, to fight. That, too, is in a cat’s nature. One can take a cat out of the fight, so to say, but it is impossible to take the fight out of the cat. And then, suddenly, there he was, in the middle of my bed, sporting three long gashes in his side. Bleeding all over the place. Generally, hurt.
He stayed still long enough for me to treat his gashes. Any attempt to lift him and put him in a carry bag to take him to the vet failed. He almost bit off my hand. So, we settled for a fragile equilibrium where I check if he’s ok and he just stays in the bed. At night he would try to snug up to me as closely as possible to hide from his pain. Of course, if I moved he’d hurt even more and wake up and growl and hiss and splutter. That meant unslept nights for me. It also meant that I could not move much because he hurt.
Now let us turn this into a metaphor for human — God interaction. And I will insist that in this case, the cat is not the representation of god, quite contrary.
There are times when we hurt. It does not matter why and where and how, and who done it. At such times all the world becomes a very very tight place. And the soul seeks refuge from the pain.
Sometimes people ask, where is God when they hurt. Now, what if, for a moment, we could see God as the owner of a cat who’s come to seek refuge. For a while, he gets hissed at and complained about just for being the refuge. For a while, he cannot move because he is the refuge. For a while, the small world blazes with pain.
But then the medicine starts taking effect, and slowly, gradually, subtly the soul heals. And God can move and act more … God. Get the soul food and water. And a blanket, such things. John continues thus: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” Continuing the metaphor, is the cat less cat than they were before the accident and during it? Obviously, not. What has changed then?
The blanket is still there. The trust has been tried out. Some healing has been done. Experience has been shared. “To all who received him, he gave the power to be children of God, born of God.” No birth is pretty. Or easy for that matter. All birth involves coming into a hostile world. One thing is not hostile in that world — God our refuge and parent.
Speaking of cats, Da Kat is better now, and still sleeps with his bottom safely tucked in somewhere near me. He also tries to sit next to me as I type at the computer or go about our home doing stuff. He’s never been too affectionate, but he watches me in his discrete, cool manner a lot. And sometimes he brings me … small gifts. This year dragonflies seem to be topical, placed next to my pillow. He also sings me some songs.
And I know I can trust him not to run away when he hurts.