I recently rediscovered some things I wrote several years ago. It’s been a joy to revisit those pieces. Some are forever relevant, so I decided to start a series of “Lessons From Memory Lane” posts for your enjoyment. The post that follows is titled, “I Hate Cats… But I Still Love Mine.” Though I no longer have a cat, the message endures, because it’s a lesson on the nature of love itself. Enjoy!
I Hate Cats… But I Still Love Mine
I really do hate cats. I always have. As a young boy, I was allergic to them, which probably didn’t help me to like them much, but beyond that, I never liked how sneaky they were, how they didn’t listen to commands (at least not in the way dogs do), and how they just stare at you, as if to say, “I’m in charge here.”
As an adult, I grew out of my allergy to cats. I fell in love with a cat-lover. I married her and we adopted two kittens of our own. Sure, they were cute and cuddly, and they were fun to play with, but I very quickly grew tired of cleaning their dirt and the messes from their hairballs. Almost nine years later, it’s rare that a week goes by that I don’t find some mess somewhere in the house. It’s rarely on the hard floor, though the mess will be found right NEXT to the hard floor – on the carpet. I am convinced it is some great cat conspiracy to drive me nuts. On top of all that, I agree with the funny e-mail someone sent me recently, which said that cats try to kill their owners by scooting right beneath their feet as they are taking steps… and particularly when owners are ON steps. Things of that sort bring me to my thoughts from this morning.
While I was cleaning the cat litter, I was grumbling and muttering some words to God. I said, “God, I know you love all Your creation, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why You created and love cats. If I am so fortunate (by nothing other than sheer grace) to get to Heaven, I think this might be one of the first questions I will ask You. Why cats?” Like a bolt of lightning, the answer came without hesitation. It was as if God spoke directly to my heart and said, “Without them, it would be much harder for you to grow closer to me and make it to Heaven. Without the suffering caused by your cats, you would know much less about love. You may utterly HATE them… but look how you LOVE them!”
This brought some comfort to me as I finished cleaning the litter. More importantly, it caused me to reflect on the fact that love is not an emotion or feeling of some sort. No. Too many people in our culture make that mistake. Rather, LOVE IS A CHOICE. I would point to marriage as an example, and as meaningful as that is, why settle for the sign when you can go straight to the place where the sign points?
The reality behind the sign of sacramental marriage is Christ on the Cross. Talk about love! Here, Jesus’ “beloved,” the very people He came to save, committed the ultimate act of betrayal. They… we… killed Him. Suffice it to say, Jesus was not like me, and He did not and does not hate us the way I hate cats, yet who could blame Him if He did? Instead, Jesus genuinely likes us. He likes us, and He LOVES us! Jesus could have come down from that cross, but His CHOICE TO LOVE ensured that He was committed to the end. He provided the ultimate definition of love when He died on the cross. It is an enduring choice to be unselfish.
I believe it was Pope John Paul II who basically taught that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is selfishness. That gives me comfort today. Despite the fact that I continue to hate cats, it’s really OK. I’m not called to have warm feelings toward them, or others, for that matter. I AM called to LOVE, and that is a CHOICE that I make, even when I don’t feel like it. Therefore, I am grateful for today’s conversation with God. I can apply this to more important, and sacred, aspects of my life (such as marriage and fatherhood), and it will have infinite value and eternal consequences. How could it be otherwise for a person who has genuine faith in Christ? I can’t believe I’m writing this, but thank God for cats.