He was born about nine years ago or so, one of four born to a feral mother. He was the only one with medium-long hair and a classic tabby marking and coloring. He grew up feral, eager enough to eat the food a human brought him, but not allowing any contact and very strict social distancing that surpassed even the Covid-19 virus spacing.
The kittens were too small and too frightened to be trapped for neutering, and I was reluctant (and also monetarily deficient) to take them to the vet’s office for vaccinations and health checks. Slowly, the kittens began to suffer from upper respiratory infections and the like, and one by one, they succumbed. The mother had wandered off or perhaps died somewhere away from the kittens who were by that time weaned and independent. The only surviving kitten was the one who came to be known as “Classy” for the spiral tabby markings on his sides. He didn’t escape totally; his eyes became infected, and one became cloudy while the other seemingly came out unscathed. After more than a year, I finally did get him trapped, neutered, and returned, with the promise that I would continue to feed him and take such care of him as he permitted. It took him a long time to let me get even ten feet away from him after all that.
Several years passed, and each year he let me get maybe six inches closer to him. He would listen to me if I sat down and talked to him, but there wasn’t enough trust for touching or petting. He accepted food but thanked me by waiting until I had moved some distance from the food dish before giving me a look in the eye and moving slowly to the now-replenished food.
I don’t remember precisely when he first got close enough for me to touch him. He immediately backed up and didn’t allow me to get that close for quite a while. Slowly he got closer once again, and this time when I tried to touch him, he permitted it for a second or so before moving off a couple of feet away. He continued to get closer, though, until the day when he discovered that a touch on the head, if allowed to go on, developed into head-scratching and ear-rubbing. He found that these were quite pleasant, and as long as I didn’t get too ambitious or move beyond those touchpoints, he was amenable to more of it, even before eating. Several times he’s been frightened enough to avoid my closeness for a week or so. Still, eventually, he allowed me to leave his bowl in the open door of the shed rather than on the patio, and finally for me to go in before I filled the bowl. He even made biscuits on the wooden floor of the shed and purred as I scratched his head and ears. Then he would eat, having found that trust had given him not only a full belly but the pleasure of comfort and enjoyment.
It occurred to me that sometimes I act like Classy when it comes to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. For a while, I go along, trusting and beginning to do the human equivalent of purring and kneading when I feel trusting and trustworthy. Then something happens that makes me doubt that trust, and I move away until I can slowly regain my balance and my confidence.
I’m sure others like me have frights and memories that pop up at inconvenient moments and upset the hard-won feeling of faith and comfortableness. Looking at Classy retreating but then showing a willingness to try again to have those feelings of pleasure and connectedness with another creature, I remember that even if I don’t knead the shed floor or floor pillow, I am willing to try again. Even if I physically back away from those who want to show their love for me as I did for Classy when I was trying to get him to let me pet him, it’s hard to back away from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit sometimes, especially as they have ways of being persistent and loving during the process. Like a cat, I may go and try to hide under the bed or in the closet or even outside somewhere, but they always find me and lure me out and one step closer. Slowly the trust is rebuilt, and all is well.
I wonder – where am I in danger of backing away and hiding from people who love me today? Where am I when I feel the Trinity is getting too close or too intimate? What bowl of kibble can God put in front of me to encourage me to see the blessing it entails, not the possibility of danger? What can I do to retain the feelings of comfort, confidence, and returning to God the love that God has for me?
I see I have a lot of work to do. I’ll keep looking out for, feeding, and showing Classy that trust doesn’t have to mean hurt or danger. I’ll try to remember that lesson myself when it shows up in my daily life. Just as I have patience with Classy, so God has patience with me. All I have to do is trust that.
Image: Classy, photo by Author.