by Erin Mackenzie
It’s a toss-up, really. I’m not sure who I was more excited to see exiting the airport’s sliding glass doors: my sister … or the orange and white furball peering through the mesh front of the carrier she held aloft.
After an agonizing progression of vaccines, phone calls and signatures, my family’s recent visit heralded the long-awaited arrival of my cat, Freddy, to the mission field. Oh, how I’ve missed the sound of the jingle bell on his collar constantly alerting me to his whereabouts. His sudden arrival in the kitchen whenever I open a tin can that might be tuna. The cat hair that accumulates in the corners of the stairs and marks his favorite spot on the back of the couch — yes, even that. His warm body curled next to mine and purring contentedly as I drift off to sleep. The things he teaches me about the nature of God.
Rewind. What? Yes. Freddy is more than just my feline companion. He’s a furry, daily reminder of the Father’s providence, faithfulness and love, a trifecta that’s especially heartening for a missionary in the trenches of spiritual warfare to bear in mind. But what, exactly, can my gato teach me about God?
1. God delights in providing for His creatures.
I’m routinely asked if I live alone. Until now, the answer’s been yes, and I thrive on the independence afforded by that. But sharing my home with another living, breathing being that depends wholly on me for sustenance brings me unbridled joy. So it is with God. “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing,” the psalmist says (Ps. 145:16). The Creator loves to care for his creation. What sweet consolation it is for me to feed my cat and remember that we have a Heavenly Father who relishes lavishly bestowing upon His children all that we need for this body and life.
2. God is faithful, even toward the ungrateful.
How quickly we forget, though! The first thing I do when I get up every morning is feed Freddy. Yet even as I stoop to unroll the top of the Friskies bag, he cries out in apparent starvation. Surely he ought to rest securely in the certainty that breakfast is on the way? Surely he remembers that he was fed yesterday — and that there has never yet come a day when he hasn’t been fed? But stop and think about the Israelites. Still basking in some of the Old Testament’s most magnificent spectacles — the parting of the Red Sea, anyone? — they began to grumble. All too often, my own voice drowns out both their grumbling and Freddy’s frantic meowing as I bellyache about the teeniest of hardships. We have a God who gave His only Son up to gruesome death and raised Him to life again three days later for our salvation. How will He not also grant us whatever we need to persevere in the tasks He sets before us?
3. God pours out His love without restraint.
Why does our Heavenly Father continually “open His hand,” even to thankless sinners? Love. Unconditional love. Freddy gets swatted at when he jumps on the kitchen counters. He thinks I’m after him whenever I break out the vacuum cleaner. The other day, I inadvertently stepped on his tail. Yet these intentional, perceived and accidental wrongs are swiftly forgotten. Soon, he’ll be rubbing up against my leg affectionately. Next time I walk in the front door, he’ll come running to greet me. And at the end of the day, he’ll hop into bed beside me. Come what may, Freddy is there. The love of God is likewise and infinitely more so. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There are few more soothing words when conflict, loneliness or defeat threatens to overwhelm.
Confession: I own a cat pillow. Just one. Does that make me a crazy cat lady? I hope not. What’s crazy, at least by worldly standards, is the wildly counterintuitive character of the God we worship.
My family left after two chock-full weeks. Freddy stayed behind, though. This missionary’s cat is in it for the long haul, giving me reason to marvel every day at my four-legged reminder of God’s providence, faithfulness and love.
Erin Mackenzie is a career missionary in the Dominican Republic.When she’s not traveling around Latin America overseeing the regional short-term team program — too often, according to her cat, Freddy — Erin enjoys reading, trying new recipes and challenging anyone who claims they can beat her at English or Spanish Scrabble.