We’ve started accumulating cats recently. Cyrus and Tatia came across a long-legged stray a while back—a white short-hair with dusty orange paws and ears. He has the blue eyes of a Siamese, so I suspected he’d be a little crazy—every Siamese cat I’ve known was a little crazy. And Felix (they named him Felix) is a little different, but mostly in a good way. He’s one of the most mellow creatures you’d ever come across; he’s not at all twitchy, or skittish like most cats can be. He’s pretty quiet, he just saunters around the house, and takes naps.
That is until cat number two came along. Actually, Creamsicle was already hanging around our place, so she predates Felix. Creamsicle is a little long-haired female, as delicate as Felix is brawny. She’s orange and white—like a creamsicle. And for some reason, Cyrus thought she needed to come in with us for the winter. So we doctored her up with some dewormer and flea killer, and she came inside. She’s a lot more savvy than the other cat, she’s been around a while, and has learned to look out for herself. She pays attention to what’s going on, always looking around and listening.
So, big, lethargic Felix now has someone to play with. At least that’s how he sees it. But Creamsicle isn’t that interested, and she lets him know it. Here’s what happened the other day: I was standing by our table, and Creamsicle was hunkered down about a yard away from me. And Felix walks right by me toward her, ready to wrestle. Creamsicle dropped down even lower, and her ears went back and she let out a hiss, all signs that Felix should back off. But poor simple-minded Felix keeps coming. Since all this is happening right within reach for me, I bent down and gave Felix a little smack on the rump—trying to avoid a blow-up, which he was definitely headed toward. And he jumps and Creamsicle takes the opportunity to jet into the other room.
But here’s the thing. Creamsicle was telling him that she didn’t want to play. And I was right there to tell him the same thing with a swat on the rump. But Felix wasn’t hearing it. He just follows her right into the other room, lumbering like a bulldog toward his own destruction. In spite of all the signs that he should just back off, and let it drop, Felix was going to get what he wanted. Even if it clearly wasn’t going to be a happy experience. A wise cat would have walked away, and perhaps looked for a different approach, or a different time-frame. But Felix may not be that wise.
In this particular case, I was able to scoop him up and save him from his self-destructive tendencies. But it was a little unsettling to see how determined he was to going after what he wanted. He had this plan, and he wasn’t reading the situation very well, and it wasn’t going to go well for him. His goal—play with Creamsicle—seemed to blind him to the escalating violence of the situation. If Felix wants a relationship with Creamsicle where he’s not constantly bleeding out of his ears, he’d better pay more attention to what’s going on instead of what he wants.
I think what struck me about the whole exchange was that it was so un-cat-like. Usually, cats aren’t that stubborn. Their instinct for survival makes them aware and responsive to all the little situational factors that surround them. But not Felix. He’s a little different. He’s more like a person. We human beings often head toward our own destruction with a single-minded determination. We fail to see the situational factors that should be warning us to change course, to adapt or abandon our course of action. Or if we do see the problems, we ignore them because we’re so invested in our plan. Our desire to achieve our goals blinds us to the potential pitfalls and compels us to charge ahead. As Proverbs 16:25 says, sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.
Jesus is pretty clear that our first priority is to love each other (John 13:34). The application of love is situational—what is loving in one situation may be different in another. Sometimes love says come closer, sometimes it says give me space. Love for others means we will be attuned to their responses, we will read the cues they are sending. If they are hunkered down, ears back and hissing, it may not be the most loving thing to continue to push forward with our agenda. If what we want leads to damaged relationships, then we need to reevaluate what it is we want and how we’re going about it. Even the things we believe to be worthwhile end up wrong, and we are being disobedient to Jesus when we fail to love while lumbering toward our desires.
See you Sunday! John