Last night April and I were coming to terms with the loss of our 18 month old cat, Jess. He had been missing since lunchtime the day before (Sunday) and while we know that isn’t a terribly long time for a cat, we had a feeling this was the last we had seen of him. We started talking about how we could tell Savannah this. She got Jess as a birthday present the year before and though she hadn’t quite connected with him (or perhaps it was the other way around!), he was a part of her life. She talked about him and prayed for him every night in her prayers.
So after April and I talked, all I could think to do was to tweet a prayer. I wrote, ‘Tonight I pray for our cat Jess, wherever he is. He’s been missing since yesterday. We pray he can come back to us.’ It was finally an admission on my part that he was gone and I missed him. The latter something I hadn’t realised. So I broke down and sobbed over this little cat that I thought I would never see again.
A few minutes later the phone rang. Seriously, it could not have been 20 minutes. My next door neighbours (and members of my church at Wilpshire) were on the phone. ‘Are you missing your pussy cat? He’s upstairs under our bed.’ It was such a moment of joy that I could hardly believe it! I grabbed Jess’s food and headed next door for what had to be the strangest pastoral call I ever had. By the time I got there, Jess had raced up to the attic, but hearing my voice and rattling his food bowl he came to me. I scooped him up and hugged him. As cats always are, he was vastly underwhelmed by the occasion and oblivious to the trouble he caused us.
So I have to wonder, did God answer my prayer? There is a sensible side of me that wants to say, why with all else going on in the world would God choose to bring our cat safely back home? I can’t help but think of all the ‘more important’ prayers that go unanswered, especially as images of horror flicker on the TV. But also, I often keep God at a distance – remotely uncaring about my concerns while God goes on to take care of the rest of the real problems.
I have a hard time thinking through God answering a prayer for me. I’m not someone who easily accepts the idea of God’s love for me (yes, I know – odd for a minister). Even more so in what can be a very isolating job as a minister. So today, I have been attempting to ‘try on’* the idea that God reached across the veil with this silly little cat to let me know God loves me. It is a small token to remind me that God still loves me, even amidst all else that is going on in the world.
*I am indebted to my friend Jen Harner for this image. When April and I were thinking through our decision to stay in the UK or go back to the United States, she suggested that we ‘try it on for a day’. Think through everything as if we were going to stay in the UK and then another day as if we were going back to the US to see what it feels like.