Monday, January 18, 2010

Rascal's lesson

. . . be patient with everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NIV)

The little kitty showed up in my neighbor’s yard one day last fall. Since they already had a cat—and didn’t want any more—and since she knew who the sucker in the neighborhood is, she brought it to me.

I didn’t want any more cats, either. At the time, we had two: an indoor cat, Providence—a female whose litters kept us in kittens until a trip to the vet’s office solved the kitty boom—and Scaredy, our outdoor tom and one of Provie’s descendants.

But one look at that tiny, motherless, wiggling mass of soft gray and white fur, and I held out my arms.

Hubby, I knew, wouldn’t be too happy.

“It’s just until I find a home for it,” I assured him when he got home from work.

He gave me one of those who-do-you-think-you’re-fooling looks.

“I’m not even naming it,” I said.

“You just better hope it’s not a female,” he said, not without a sigh.

Provie, used to being queen of the house, didn’t like the newcomer. She ignored it as best as she could and hissed at it when it came near.

“This isn’t going to work out,” I told my daughter-in-law when she stopped in the next day. “Provie’s been top cat for a long time. The little kitty just won’t leave her alone. I can’t have cat fights every time I turn around.”

“Give it some time,” she said. “At least a week.”

I asked around, but no one wanted the little kitty. I tried to palm it off on my youngest son, even resorting to extortion, but he already had two cats. So he said.

The little kitty’s cuteness was offset by its stupidity—or stubbornness. Either it didn’t understand what the litter box was for or it didn’t want to use it. So I carried the kitty downstairs to the basement and placed it in the litter box. It hopped out, preferring instead the soft blue bedroom carpeting—until one night my husband refused to set foot in the bedroom because of the stink.

After cleaning the carpeting, I banned the kitty from the bedroom. It chose the dining room carpet. Feeling I was fighting a losing battle, I placed a litter box in the corner it used for its drop station and kept a spray bottle of rug cleaner handy. After a couple of months, the not-so-little kitty, now named “Rascal,” was using it consistently. The litter box has been safely moved to the basement.

Why did I put up with all that? I didn’t even want another cat in the first place.

Maybe because I have a soft heart when it comes to strays that no one wants. Maybe because, quite simply, I love animals, especially helpless, motherless little kittens. Patience, I’ve learned, is an important aspect of love.

I loved Rascal enough to give it time to change. But I was powerless to change it. Like I always say, you can train a dog, but a cat does what it darn well pleases. I had to wait until Rascal grew and matured and was ready to make the changes it needed to make.

I wonder if I’m as patient with people—especially those closest to me—as I was with that little kitty.

Do I accept them with their flaws and love them the way they are? Or am I holding back, waiting until the warts are removed? Do I envision what they could be, believe in them and encourage them? Or do I nag them and remind them of their mistakes? Do I wait until they are ready or do I foist on them lessons they’ll only resent? Do I wait prayerfully for them to change or do I try to change them myself?

It never works, you know—trying to change people. Only God can do that. And He does it from the inside out. In His time. In His way.

And it’s always the best way.

Dear God, forgive me for trying to change other people. That’s Your job, not mine. When I see no progress and impatience grows, remind me to keep praying for them and leave them in Your capable hands. Amen.

Special-Tea: 1 Thessalonians 5:11–15

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