Chloe loved to sleep amid our tangle of flowers.
Although our trusted vet did everything he could, Chloe, my daughter’s beloved cat, could not be saved. We had rushed her to his office after she was found, face down in the grass. Four hours and multiple tests later, he sent her home, unsure about what was wrong. She died 30 minutes later.
For the last two years, she had lived the life she always wanted to live. After it became apparent that she no longer wanted to be an indoor cat, (see Confession, blog post 7/20/2014) I gave her the freedom of the outdoors. She learned to love the outside world that she had seen before only through the window.
She adorned our flower garden as she watched the birds come and go to the feeder. She slept in the sunshine and rested in the shade. Her demeanor softened. She became the cat she was intended to be.
Her passing added to the sadness that had already made a hollow place in my daughter’s young life. Losing two grandmas within 6 months and a cherished pet is a lot of grief for one young girl to bear.
The sadness in her rose to the surface. Tears that had been suppressed for the grandmas flowed freely for Chloe. She was the gate that released the sorrow.
It is one thing to feel grief yourself and quite another to see someone you love trying to deal with it. I prayed that God would ease her pain.
He did so, in a way only He can, by softening a wild and hardened heart. He did so by changing the heart of a feral cat.
After we moved Chloe outside and adopted Oscar as a companion for her, we were visited frequently by a strange cat. We saw it only as a streak of orange and white as it shot through the cat door in the garden shed on its raids for food.
The girls were intrigued and tried to tame it, without success. Even though not officially part of our family, they named her Orange Blossom.
We never saw Oscar or Chloe try to fend her off. In fact, on one cold winter’s evening, I saw them all, resting together in the shed. Orange Blossom quickly rushed through my legs and out into the night.
She darted in and out of our picture for two years. She wouldn’t linger for a long look or a slow touch.
Yet, the day after Chloe died, something changed.
The cat was stretched out on our carport when we came back from walking the dogs. She eyed the dogs casually and slowly moved into the yard, where she sat by the bird feeder, watching.
The girls couldn’t believe their eyes. They watched as Orange Blossom slowly walked into the woods. That evening, while my husband was grilling out, I swept the carport and saw the cat again. This time, she sat by our truck in the driveway. I stopped mid-sweep and stared at her.
A thought beckoned me and I knew it was of the Lord.
I called my daughter to the door. “Look who’s here,” I said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Orange Blossom is hanging around.” “I think God knows you need that cat, and the cat needs you.” “If you tame her, we’ll schedule a vet appointment, and she can be yours.”
“Really?” she exclaimed. The clouds broke, her grieving heart filled with purpose. Compassion flooded in. Before the weekend was over, the cat was eating out of her hand and she had officially earned the title “Cat Whisperer.”
The cat now has a new identity. She is no longer Orange Blossom, the feral cat. HE is Chief, new alpha male of our entire pack.
The dogs quickly learned to respect the speed and accuracy of his scimitar like claws. They can calculate his striking distance to the millimeter. Pearl, my husband’s K9 partner, the bravest and strongest of our crew, often hurtles across the yard at Chief, in a pulse-quickening game of chicken. He stares at her, unblinking, as she races towards him at break-neck speed. He maintains complete composure, confident in his position and ability. At the last second, Pearl veers sharply off, and Chief remains, unshaken.
In the morning when I take the dogs out, they stand at the threshold, looking at Chief, who views the step as his throne, whereupon he waits for my daughter to wake up. The dogs need desperately to go out, but it’s obvious they can see the line Chief has drawn in the sand. They wait until I respectfully nudge him off the step.
When it was clear that Chief had decided to leave his wayward life and become part of the family, we scheduled a vet appointment.
“How are we ever going to get him into a carrier?” my daughter asked.
“Don’t worry, honey. Daddy and I can do it. We’ve handled cats before.”
What followed wasn’t pretty. Chief wrote the story of that mistake on our forearms.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” came to mind, especially after my girl quietly whispered Chief into the cat carrier.
Chief’s scars tell the story of a hard life.
Chief’s nose is crisscrossed with battle scars and I suspect his coat hides more than a few evidences of conflict. He is mostly toothless, caused by malnourishment, according to our vet. My daughter is clearly his favorite, although he tolerates touches from the rest of us. He is bold, fearless and completely enjoys his new place in our family. He is now secure, loved, fed. Our yard is his kingdom. He patrols the borders and defends against the occasional stray cat who wanders in. All three of our dogs sometimes crowd around him, but he bravely stands his ground. Fierce, yet with my daughter, he’s tender and loving.
“You realize,” I said to my girl, “God used Chief to bless you and prove that He is in the detail of your life. He saw your grief. He knew what you needed. ” “Thank Him for that.”
“I already have,” she said.
I praised Him for seeing the hurt in my daughter’s young life and touching her in such a creative way.
You may think it is coincidence. You may attribute it to mysterious cat dynamics. You may think it is silly. I choose to see God’s hand. I choose to believe that all good and perfect gifts are from Him. I choose to believe that God, who created all things, is Master of all creatures, great and small. I choose to believe that God is in the detail.
I choose to believe that He is the giver of new identity.
What do you choose?
Colossians 1:13-14 says:
“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have ‘redemption,’ the forgiveness of sins, in Him.”
If you have chosen Jesus, then God has rescued you from darkness and transferred you into His family. You have a new name: Child of God. You have a new identity: Jesus in you. You have His presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, at work in you, transforming your life from the inside out. The Spirit is not a nebulous, romantic notion, but an active force that enables you to think new thoughts, create new habits and adopt ways of life that are contrary to the ways of the world.
“Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.”
Hidden indicates that God completely fulfilled the action of forgiveness with eternal results, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit living in us. He enables us to exchange worldly characteristics for Godly ones.
That happens when we we study the character of Jesus, as recorded in the Word, and imitate His characteristics, as if we are taking on His identity. If we consistently choose His ways instead of our own, then His character becomes part of our moral fiber, woven into who we are by the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.
By doing this, we model to the world who Jesus is. We show the identity of Christ. In Jesus, we can stand brave and unshaken. We can boldly say His name and in Him, we can walk with confidence that our salvation is secure, untouchable by anyone of this world. With His identity we can love, with Him in us, we can forgive.
If we do not, who will?
On your own: Read the whole book of Colossians. It’s only four chapters!
There is another spiritual analogy this story begs to tell: Does someone you love have a heart turned away from God? Keep loving, praying, trusting. Believe that God will send His Holy Spirit (Soul Whisperer) into that person’s life at just the right moment. God’s timing is impeccable!