Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Cats, God's Work, and Pure Hope -- Hope Chronicles 9

I have always thought of myself as a dog person. But a couple of years ago, I had a dog. I absolutely loved her. But after six months, it became clear that it wasn't working out. She - seriously - had anxiety. The vet even put her on anxiety medication! It manifested itself whenever I would leave. She clearly needed to be with someone who was home more.

I was distraught over having to give her up. (I still tear up if I think on it too much, but it part of this tale.) I had gotten her at the Humane Society and had talked to them weekly since getting her. They promised they could find her a home and suggested a cat. Why would I want some aloof cat? They loaned me one (something they don't usually do) for the weekend. Two years later I have two cats that think they are dogs. They literally greet me at the door and follow me from room to room. Even though I have a huge bed, they pretty much sleep next to me or on top of me!

I brought the kitten (right) home the day before Thanksgiving. I thought and thought about what to name her. I came up with Amalia (A-ma-leah) but Mali (Ma -lee) for short. Why the name? I actually knew someone once with the name. I liked it. But more than that, I liked the potential for the meaning. I got on the computer and searched name sites. I put in "hope" and came up with things like Esperanza. I suppose I could have called her Essie for short, but my eyes alighted on the Arabic word "amal" which means, of course, hope.

Since I am focused on hope, why not use it as a name for my kitten as well.

Mali was a stray before she turned up at the Humane Society at 4 months. I got her at 6 months and have had her for a month and a half. While she is very loving, she still acts like a stray when it comes to food. She will hop up on the table (though she isn't allowed) and steal something off your plate. Oh, she is a bit sly about it. She waits for just the right moment. Once she has it, it is hers!

I first witnessed this when I had a pizza crust in the garbage waiting to go out to the garage. I was watching TV. I heard this fierce growl. Mali was crouched with the crust (wider than her head) in her mouth. My other cat, Katy, was nearby. This was the reason for the growl. Since then she has snatched and ran with margarine wrappers, a piece of bread, and a piece of lettuce. While I didn't want her digesting the wrapper, so obviously, I had to get that from her. I also retrieved the bread and lettuce at personal risk (her claws are sharp and her growl is fierce). While these might not have harmed her, I didn't want her thinking that she could do that, reinforcing her by letting her keep her prize.

I had thought that a month or so of consistent feeding would weaken her resolve. Actually, I think it has gotten worse! I have now lost 3 dish rags left on the sink to dry (but obviously smelling of soap and food) to the recesses of the house because she has made off with them. She is now banished to the bathroom (crying piteously) each time I cook or even eat anything.

While I don't approve and would love to break her of it, I must say I admire her tenacity. For someone so little to growl so fiercely at someone so much bigger than her, for her to be so single minded in her pursuit, well there is something to be said for that.

Am I that fierce, that single minded in my pursuit of God and hope? I want to be!

As I have said, I knew a girl once named Amalia. I thought they had told me the name meant hope. But, I couldn't find it on-line or in any of the books I looked at. I had pretty much settled on it and decided that it was a feminized form of the word Amal. One night at the bookstore, I found a Christian naming book. Before shelving it, I looked. It was in there! But instead of just meaning "hope," it meant "a work of God."

And what is hope? It is a work of God in our lives. Without Gods work in our lives, without God, we live and those who have no hope. We can be sure of hope because our hope lies in an unchanging, unfaltering, and utterly dependable God. Did you catch all of that? UNCHANGING. UNFALTERING. UTTERLY DEPENDABLE.

Granted, it is more than we can fathom living in a world of broken people who let us down. But God is not a broken person. Oh, we break his heart sometimes, but it isn't the same thing. Even though we are faithless, he remains faithful. Once He has us, he holds us close.

J.I. Packer is a modern day theologian. In his book, KNOWING GOD, he writes:

"What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it -- the fact that HE KNOWS ME. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind . . . . He knows me as a friend, one who loves me, and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters. . . . There is a tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on a prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me."

Read that a couple of times. We are graven on the palms of His hands, never out of his mind. He is never distracted by a cell phone or someone pulling out in traffic. He doesn't waffle if He finds out something new about us because He already knows all there is about us. We can never disillusion Him. He knows the worst about me and loves me -- enough to go to the cross for me. That is essence of pure hope -- resting in God's love for me.

What does it look like to fully rest in that?

What does it look to fiercely follow after God?

What does it look like to seek him with a single minded focus?

I'm not sure. What it looks like in my life may be different than what it looks like in my life, but I would love to know what it looks like for you!

I am just beginning to figure out what it means for me. I think some of what it means for me is:

  • being faithful to read and study His word

  • keeping scripture in front of me

  • being aware of my tendency to always, first and foremost, wonder how something will impact me rather than those around me

  • choosing to serve

  • focusing on hope

And more, but I am still figuring it out.

At some point in our lives we realize we are helpless to save ourselves -- that no amount of work on our part, no amount of trying, no amount of effort, no amount of anything will save us. It's typically a humbling and a bit of a scary place to be. But God steps in and says, "I will make a way for you." He offers us hope through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. He says we can come no matter what state our lives are in. He holds out his hands . . . and dies so that we won't have to be separated from Him forever. The Cross is the purest picture of hope there is.

On a side note, my other cat's name is Katy. It comes from Katherine meaning pure. So, without realizing it I have ended up with a daily reminder of "pure hope" in Katy (pure) and Amalia (hope). That just came to mind last night!


Lysa TerKeurst said...

Your cats are adorable--- and I'm not even a cat person. But a growing cat- now that is something that seems quite funny. Thank you for your amazingly keen insights and encouraging words. You are a fantastic writer.
Sweet Blessings~

Lysa TerKeurst said...

Ooops--- I meant to say a "growling cat" not a "growing cat" hehehehe-