Wednesday, February 26, 2020

From the Cat’s Perspective

I’m sitting in the vet’s office with a very unhappy young feline. She was okay in the car; a little curious but not overly concerned. Now her tail is fluffed up like a feather duster and she’s growling, a sound I’ve never heard from her before. The instrument poking into her ears was bad enough, the prodding and squeezing of her abdomen was worse, and then came the rabies shot and the growling if you accidentally touch her where it now hurts.

To top things off, this is only the preliminary round. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s getting spayed in two weeks. That’s when things will really get ugly.

She’s hardly had a moment in her life around humans when she was not being petted, played with and cared for. This must seem like we have completely betrayed her. I can see her reassessing my son as he strokes her gently to calm her down, trying to figure out whether she can trust him or not.

All of this is entirely necessary. Nobody has decided to play “Let’s torment the cat.” We love the little furball and want the best for her. The alternative is to have her going in and out of heat every few weeks for years; noisy for us but much more distressing and uncomfortable for her.

But from the cat’s perspective? I totally get the whole growling thing. She cannot make the connection between those strange internal sensations she’s been experiencing for the last couple of weeks as she prowled the house howling in distress and this unexpected trip in the car. She hasn’t got the capacity to grasp the big picture; to understand the necessity to take a relatively small hit in the short term in order to produce a much more desirable long term outcome.

We’ve opted for the more-expensive but less-invasive laser spay procedure instead of the traditional surgery, but the poor cat doesn’t know how much consideration and expense has gone into minimizing her discomfort. She won’t know how many extra hours her owner put in at the office to pay for it, or what he didn’t buy for himself because he put her first. She’ll never have any idea how much worse recovery from the other type of surgery might have been. She’ll only know that this less painful, more expensive kind of surgery she’s receiving is not a whole lot of fun.

She will not thank us for our kindness when we’re done. She may even give me a finger chomp on the way home to express her displeasure.

But that’s the cat’s perspective. Since we do not speak the same language, I can’t help her see things differently.

*     *     *     *     *

The parable, I know, is about as subtle as a shovel to the noggin. Sorry. But sometimes I think I see the more unpleasant circumstances of my life — sickness, injury, loss of loved ones, accident, betrayal, impending job loss and other unexpected sorrows — much like that cat sees hers.

But like the cat, I am in need of surgery, and so are you. I need to be remade — transformed really — into the likeness of the Son of God. If I don’t have this operation, I’ll never be fit company for my Master. It’s by a million miles the best possible outcome for a creature made of flesh, personality and spirit who is so much smaller and insignificant in comparison to his Owner than a cat is to you or me.

But man, does this surgery hurt! For some of us, it goes on for years. It involves major work on heart, cranium, eyes, ears, mouth and limbs. All must be taught to operate differently.

The cat and I cannot meaningfully communicate about what is happening to her. I can’t ask her permission to put her through the surgical process because she is not capable of assessing the situation and making the right decision about her own needs. We’re just going to have to trust that she gets over it, and that the affection and care she receives after her surgery will eventually outweigh whatever painful memories she retains.

God, on the other hand, has been diligent to make his love, his will and his purposes known to us. The whole surgical regimen is eloquently spelled out in his Word, and he has put his Spirit in our hearts to make sure his intent is understood. He has done everything possible to make this my choice, not just his. But because, like the cat, my capacity to fully grasp what he is telling me is limited, there are facts and implications about this process that I do not and will not understand until it is complete. When I come across one of these, also like the cat, I have to decide whether or not to trust.

There is no other way. There is no better option here.

But sometimes I still see things from the cat’s perspective.


  1. This all seems reasonable at first glance but does not hold up to further analysis. The main point being that we are not cats. We are built to precisely understand and analyze our surroundings (given our individual capabilities), which includes the ability to observe, understand, analyze and respond to our surroundings, relationships, and influences. Obviously the source and direction of events and influences that affect us cannot immediately be understood always in its totality but probably can approximately be known. This means that unlike cats we are responsible for how our environment evolves at least to the extent that we understand it barring emotional and intellectual handicaps. We are not left guessing in view of our (biblical) knowledge of right and wrong and will therefore be accountable (unlike cats).

    1. I'm really not thinking about knowing right from wrong so much as the difficulties we have fully understanding God's disciplinary dealings with his children in the process of transforming us into the likeness of his Son.