that dumb cat

I wrote about Claire, our adopted cat, a few weeks ago. It seemed like a touching story then, except that right after I wrote that, the cat disappeared for three weeks! There were sightings of her back in the valley, but no one was feeding her there. She wouldn't let Heather close to her (I never saw her). It seemed she was living on mice, sleeping under one of the barns, and avoiding human contact. More than once during those three weeks I wondered if she was just going to curl up and die under there.

But last Sunday she started pestering people for food, and then let Heather bring her up here again. Now she's been here for five nights, sleeping in a little cat house Heather prepared for her, and seems to really enjoy the attention we're giving her. She's exploring the area now more, which seems healthy. But when she's gone for a while I start worrying that she'll crawl back under that barn.

I call her "that dumb cat" mostly because I don't like how she keeps jerking my feelings around. I find myself attached to the animal despite myself (I'm more of a dog person, and wanted the cat only for Heather), feeling bad when she rejects help, hoping that she'll let us give her a home. Liking it when she crawls into my lap and rubs and purrs, even though I'm allergic!

Somehow this story seems to illustrate the emotional difficulty of the "grace in grief" I've been thinking about lately. Caring for someone you can't control and being hurt by their bad choices. Hoping and being disappointed, then hoping again, then another disappointment, and not being able to stop hoping (though the emotional roller coaster is no fun anymore). Wanting to believe it will turn out okay, but not being sure.

But then there's the inordinate joy when Heather announces, "The cat's back!" Maybe something like God having more joy in finding the one lost sheep than in the many that remained, or the father's joy at the return of the prodigal son. I don't know if I'm completely convinced that the possibility of such joy is worth the risk. But I am inclined to believe that if we want to be one with God, that also means caring for those long-shots that God cares for, feeling the pain God feels.

And the occasional inordinate joys.