Oliver, best known as “Mr. O,” is an orange tabby with a droopy, wobbly tummy. We adopted him several years ago as a young adult and I am thankful he is a member of our household. I value his life and enjoy him. I like the way he enters a room and in an instant turns on a deep, manly purr that signals to us there is utter contentment in his kitty world. I like the way he crooks his tail and races around the bed in circles when I straighten the top comforter or walks across the countertop each morning when I brush my teeth. My husband likes the way Mr. O manages to meet him each day at the top of the stairs for a scratch and some manly conversation.
Sometimes Mr. O gets in my way and interrupts my efforts, but he makes me laugh and regularly reminds me there is always enough time to stop, offer some love, and show him undivided attention.
I especially like the way he draws me into his world when connecting with me serves his needs. Like the time I watched him repeatedly dip a paw into the top of the fish bowl as if he had decided to embark in some private fishing. When I hurried over to shoo him away and save our elderly gold fish, I realized he never intended to consume Rainbow. The water level was simply too low in his private watering hole for easy lapping.
Being the obedient owner that I am, I added water and he drank to his heart’s content.
As much as I adore this cat, he is not the prince of the house. Mr. O is simply a cat. On the other hand, he is pretty special to us. We give him free reign of the house and he mingles with family members at will. Some of his personality has developed in response to our familial habits and I believe that some of those distinctively feline behaviors of his offer life lessons, if only I will take the time and quiet my spirit long enough to notice.
I came to these conclusions around 2:30 one morning this week when Mr. O decided that my side of the bed was the best place to settle in for the night. Not only did he seem to enjoy the cool feel of the bedding, but one of my pillows was the one and only place acceptable enough to sleep for the night.
I did not notice him at first, for he is a smart one. He conducted his first sortie in the dead of night. He hoped I might not notice. But it was the droplets of drool falling onto my neck and the massaging of kitty paws —both proof that I had one happy cat — that blasted me away from my own blessed sleep and into the world of life lessons, there in the dark.
I did what any logical cat owner would do: I dropped him gently onto the carpet, pulled the covers around my neck, and closed my eyes. But Mr. O had a plan. He started from the foot of the bed and gingerly stepped toward my head. If I moved he would stop, hunker down, and give the impression he accepted his new spot with grace. But the minute I quieted he continued his creeping. No amount of deflecting arms, words, or rolling over would deter him. Off the bed I’d send him and back on it he would hop. It was my pillow, up close and personal, or bust.
Such amazing determination, there in the dark.
In fact, his relentless pursuit of my pillow reminded me of what I have come to understand about God: He is our great pursuer. We may push him away at times. We may not want him too close. We may long to sleep instead of interacting with him, but he is undeterred. In his desire to be close to us he promises that we need not be burdened by an expectation of perfection. But we rarely believe him. We surround ourselves with hurtful attitudes, apathy, and laziness in an effort to push him away. We decide we and God are not compatible.
Still God draws near to us and speaks his message through modern life and people and Bible passages: I created you in response to the love I have for you. I long for a daily, close relationship with you. Come just as you are.
Mr. O and I figured it out. He found a spot on my pillow and I found the space I needed to sleep. It’s a story of relentless pursuit and eventual compatibility. It’s a story God hopes we will tell when describing our relationship with him —often and with enthusiasm.