A Christmas Kitten

I am not a cat person.  I don’t know exactly when this happened because I grew up begging my parents for kitten after kitten and at some point I just decided to no longer like them.  But Elise and I live in Karamoja and have an endless supply of mice in our kitchen, so the necessity of a cat sort of became unavoidable.  It just so happened that one of our friends had some kittens which had just been weened by their mother and needed new homes.  So home came Tobias, and slowly but surely she worked her way into my heart. I woke up one morning thinking, “Why is it that I dislike cats so much? Didn’t God create this one too?” And so I decided to no longer deny that I really did love this little kitten.  But this morning I wished terribly I hadn’t allowed myself the attachment as the playful puppy was just a bit too rough and I found the tiny kitten limp and wheezing in the dirt.  She died in my hands minutes later as I tried to hide their shaking and the rest of my broken heart from my team.  What’s crazy is that as upset as I was about Tobias, I think I was more angry that I was so deeply affected by a cat – especially when there are boys on the street who are hungry, infants without attentive moms who are dying – how many tears have I cried for them? Not enough.


My first instinct was to rationalize away why I shouldn’t be upset and get over it as quickly as possible; to resolve never again to allow myself to get attached and leave it at that.  But that isn’t at all what the Lord asks from us, so as silly as I felt being so upset over something so seemingly trivial, into the secret and quiet place I went to pour my heart out before the Lord.  It’s funny to me – no, funny isn’t the word – it’s amazing, beautiful, humbling, to see how He uses little instances to reveal glimpses into His heart, and often our hearts as well.  I’ve seen shards of His justice as we punished the dog partly because he needed to understand the weight of what he did, and partly because I needed it to in some small way atone; I’ve caught glimmers of His grace as He covers us and sees no longer our sin, and a glimpse into His righteous anger toward the enemy whose delight is to ‘steal, kill, and destroy.’  I was reminded again of how saddened is His heart at a loss of life, and still more how deep is His compassion to comfort the broken heart of His beloved daughter, no matter the cause.  A cat, after all, is just a cat, and yet not one sparrow will fall to the ground outside our Father’s care…. How much more precious are His children upon whose head He has numbered every hair?

And so while comforted I was also convicted – first at how I might be distraught over the loss of my kitten and not shed a tear for the life and death circumstances I see every day for the people around me, and second at how quickly my response was not to mourn and love again but to close off my heart to any injury at all.  As we take children to health clinics, see 4 month old babies no bigger than newborns, bring food to the widow whose family can’t take care of her… the circumstances are devastating but have they actually devastated my heart?  Have I become calloused so quickly? Closed up my heart with the knowledge that if I allow it to love, not just in obedient action but with joy and compassion, it will inevitably be broken?


I wrote a blog just a couple months before leaving the US about what it is to be a missionary (Missionary Tourists, for those who want to check it out – apparently I am incapable of figuring out how to successfully insert a link).  I’ll encourage you to look back at it with me because I think my heart, and perhaps yours as well, may need a little reminding of that deep desire to LOVE – to dream and struggle and weep and rejoice with the precious people God’s placed around us.  My fear is that my heart has fallen into a trap of ‘showing people love’ while ceasing to actually love them truly and deeply with the same love that would compel God Himself to come and die.  Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 13:


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.


I refuse to allow my heart to be hardened, regardless of how many times or how deeply it may ache; I refuse to allow love to be only a conviction or affection that does not move me to action, and I refuse also to let it be only action and not a disposition of the heart. I refuse, and yet sometimes I wonder if that is yet one more thing over which I have only the illusion of control. And so there is nothing left for me to do but cry out to the Lord, begging that He would soften and mold my heart to His; that I would despair at what breaks His heart and delight in that which His heart delights.


As the holiday season comes it brings with it a slew of traditions, presents to buy, and a temptation to get caught up in all the ‘right’ things.  Even good things – the giving of gifts, the family gatherings, the nativity play – that are intended to remind us of the real reason for the season can too easily become tasks on a list and dutiful acts hollow of true love and remembrance. My prayer is that we won’t forget to love – truly and deeply – because life is both harsh and chaotic and people are difficult; that we won’t close off our hearts for fear of being hurt.  I know heartache and break is bound to come, but I also know that painful moments drive us into the arms of our loving Father.  May He heal every wound, mend every heart, and open us up once again to the people that He came, oh so long ago, to love and to save.


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~ by eileendekker on December 6, 2014.

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