Any time I observe Bella (our “timid” family cat) I can’t help but think of us, and our own demeanor towards God. The strikingly similar behavior becoming clearly evident to anyone who pauses long enough. I think you’ll agree.
Bella is a rescue cat. We adopted her when she was just 8 weeks old, but those 8 weeks of surviving on her own has etched a lasting impression, observable in her every day demeanor as our family pet.
Independent and strong-willed, Bella’s primary mode of function to this day (after three years of reassuring her that she is now safe & secure) continues to be her fight or flight survivor skills, painstakingly slow to trust anyone (other than herself that is).
Three years into this journey with her, the makings of trust surface briefly and cautiously, dissolving into thin air just as quick as it appeared and I can’t help but think about us and our own thoughts and behavior toward God.
Now, before you lump Bella into the typical behavior of the cat kingdom let me paint the picture a bit more clearly. Upon entering our home her eyes widened and she fled to what she perceived to be the safest place to hide…under our bed, with zero intent of resurfacing, EVER. She hid more often than not. Attempts at holding her were futile. We managed to round her up for her first (and only) annual vet visit but that has been the sole time we were able to get her into her carrier without further traumatizing her little self. So, when annual vet visits roll around Bella watches from a safe distance as we round up our other pets and off we all go on our car trip together (minus Bella). Bella has finally accepted that there may be up to 5 humans that share the same dwelling place but as soon as the front door opens and anyone new enters the house she is back under our bed for the remainder of the “stranger’s” visit. Petting Bella was definitely out of the question for 4 of the 5 humans living in the same household. Three years later, only on extremely rare occasions does she allow the other 4 to come near enough to pet her, ever so briefly. She doesn’t live her entire life in fear, she plays with the best of them, chasing a perceived fly throughout a room, attempting to catch the “red light” with the other animals, playing with our other pet cat, and she doesn’t mind at all that the humans amusingly watch her at play, but the moment one of the other 4 move in her direction, she instantly forgets playtime and she’s gone (back under the bed).
The thing that has caught my attention the most is her interactions with me. She has assessed and now knows that I am on her side. If I’m simply in the same room then things like the vacuum cleaner, coffeemaker or other slightly startling noises won’t send her scampering. She’ll approach our dog, Zoe’s, water bowl (apparently she prefers Zoe’s over her own) even while Zoe herself (who is 5 times Bella’s size) is also approaching the water bowl. While Zoe loves to play cat-and-dog chase at Bella’s expense, when I’m in the room Bella won’t budge as Zoe walks leisurely passed, knowing that Zoe’s not allowed to “harm” her. She’ll follow me around, hop onto my lap, not panic when I pick her up to move her from Point A to Point B and yet the trust is fleeting. Something new enters her world and fear takes precedence again.
And I've come to realize, that we do the same. In peaceful, nonthreatening times, we want to be around God, near Him, we want to feel safe in His presence, yet the moment we’re hit with the unknown, our tendency is to scatter in fear, even blame. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, God brought His people out of Egypt, freed from bondage and slavery to a place of abundance. Yet again, the moment perceived tragedy struck, trust dissolved replaced by this same fear & blame.
We get stuck in the way we’ve always viewed things, the voices we’ve always listened to and are very slow at loosening our grip in order to consider the idea that there just may be another way, another One who is more deserving of our trust. God is calling us to this better way. He’s asking us to trust Him enough to leave our old way of doing and seeing things and to step out in trust of the God who created and is in control of all things, who is for us and not against us, who desires good for us and not harm. God, slow to anger and abounding in love, remains patiently understanding as He continues to lead and guide with His steadfast love, longing that none should perish but would come to a saving, trusting faith in Him. He desires to be known as our strength and our salvation, the God we will praise and exalt, the God who exceeds all, who is majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds and doing wonders, who leads in His steadfast love those who He has redeemed, guiding them by His strength, the God who reigns forever. (Exodus 15: 2-15) Living in the finished work of Jesus, we are to constantly renew our minds, leaving behind our former ways of thinking and living (no longer conforming to the ways of this world), instead being transformed as we turn to this God of hope, the God of our salvation, the God who’s making all things new and who’s invited us, even now, to live out our days before Him in the kingdom living that has come to earth to heal His people and the rest of His creation, including this land.
See, to a degree we are like Bella, a cat in a “strange” and scary world, where she feels she has to continually fight for herself or take flight. We’ve determined that nothing is safe and that we have to take charge if we are ever going to survive. We have a skewed view of both ourselves and the world in which we live, elevating and relying solely on our own ability as our only hope. Yet God has rescued us, he has adopted us into His home and is calling us His own. We are his "Bellas" (Beautiful Ones). He sees us as his treasured ones and comes alongside us, caring for us throughout our journeying though we rarely stop long enough, to step outside the little box in which we view life (our tainted worldview). From where we sit, we are the ones taking the necessary steps to keep ourselves safe and alive and cared for. Yet just beyond that box is a God who’s been working all along. Joseph recognized the reality of this as he spoke these words to his brothers, “whatever your intentions, God had always intended ‘your’ plans for good and used them to accomplish all you see around you right now.” (Ge 50:20)
“For in Him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Jesus and his saving work. That truly is the “Really Real” of our lives and our given situations. God tells us that we don’t have to grasp for ourselves but relax in Him (Mt 6:19-34 The Message)
It’s the greatest rescue story ever known by the greatest Rescuer...and you’re in it! And the best part is that it’s true! : )