But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Job 12:7-10
Last month I lost a good friend. Calvin, my cat of 17 years passed away on February 10th. I know that not everyone is a ‘pet person,’ but for those that are, you know that they truly can be man’s best friend. Calvin surely was a great friend. As I’ve reflected on his life, and mine during that 17-year span, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving for the Lord, for He taught me four great lessons about humanity through my feline friend.
Lesson One: The Necessity of Grieving. Cherise surprised me with Calvin just a few short months into our marriage. She knew that had a cat named Midnight who was with me throughout my youth. I spoke fondly of her and that my desire was to have a cat again once we were settled in our new home. So in came Calvin, and I was overjoyed. Yet that joy quickly eroded as Calvin simply wasn’t Midnight. He had a very different personality and did not immediately bond with me. One day in those first few months, Calvin darted out of the house and I thought to myself, ‘good…maybe he just won’t come back.’ But the next day it was pouring down rain and I heard his faint meow. I went out the yard and found him caught in a tangled patch of shrubs. I managed to pull him loose, and with us both soaking wet, we went back into the house. I began to weep, realizing that I had never really grieved the loss of my childhood cat, and thus was not giving this new feline a fair chance to be himself and love him as he is. What a powerful message God gave me – that grieving the loss of someone or something loved, whether a person, a pet, or a season in life – must happen so that we can open ourselves to embracing the next relationship and next season that comes our way.
Lesson Two: Unconditional Love. This is the lesson I think most pets can help us learn. Once Calvin and I had bonded, he would meet me at the door when I came home from work. He loved to be picked up and given a few head rubs and then purr with approval. What also was great is that he would do this whether I had spent time with him the day before, or none at all. Whether I paid attention to him or largely ignored him, that love was unconditional. How much greater is our God, who patiently waits as we busy ourselves with life’s concerns. Yet whenever we get on our knees, He is there for us, happy that we’ve come home.
Lesson Three: Be Sensitive to Sensitivity. Calvin always knew whenever I wasn’t feeling well. If I was sick, he stayed in the bed or on the couch with me. When I was sad or worried or stressed, he seemed to always perceive it. He’d be there to nudge my face or urge me pick him up. He’d start purring before I gave him any attention, as if he was saying, ‘I’ll be your happiness and your calm.’ Again, how much more is this the nature of our God? He is our comfort and our strength. He reminds us that with Him, weeping may last the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Lesson Four: The Poetry of Life’s Song. When brought Calvin home from the vet, we could tell that his hours were numbered and that he would soon be gone. But I am grateful that God allowed me to sit with my friend on his final day. He snuggled up next to me and did not want me to leave his side. I prayed that the Lord would allow him to take his final breaths and suffer no more. As his breathing slowed I felt him release, and I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for all the life, love, and lessons I shared with him. Isn’t that how we should approach the transition of all our loved ones? To sit with them, give thanks for them, and celebrate God’s blessing of placing them in our lives. May each of us be that good of a friend.
I thank God that He taught me much through that cat. The Lord knew my mind, heart, and spirit was open to hearing Him through my feline friend, and I am grateful that Calvin was there when I was ready to listen. As Job said, there is much to learn through God’s creation, that He is our all in all.
-- Pastor Justin
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