Ferals and Unconditional Love
While sweeping the garage, I hear faint meows coming from the matted underbrush in the woods. I cannot see the elusive cat, but his muffled cries tell me there’s a new feral cat in our neighborhood, and he’s young.
Our family policy is “whoever crosses our land gets a free meal; no questions asked.” So this little guy is in luck.
For several days I watch, hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom kitty. But he proves to be quite skilled at hiding. The only evidence of his presence is soft meows and an empty food bowl every morning.
Several weeks pass without a sighting of the shy feline. Then one morning, while I’m sitting on the patio, the tiny kitten peers around the corner. Both of us stop and stare at each other; he assessing the threat and me trying not to be threatening. My blood races with excitement. I don’t dare move!
After what seemed like hours, he feels safe and walks to the food. With one eye watching me, he eats right beside me. We share the space together.
For some unknown reason, I sense that it’s ok to reach out and touch him. Slowly, I place my hand on his back and stroke his fur. He steps back, unsure of my intentions. But he doesn’t run away. Victory! Fear is waning.
Over the next four months, we play this cat and mouse game. Then one day, I’m not sure why I chose that day, I slowly bend down and scoop him up. Without any hesitation, I carry the little furball into the house. Our home is his home.
“Love never gives up. ...Love always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end." 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7 The Message Bible
The first order of business is a trip to the vet where I find out that “he” is actually a “she.” I name her Spark, honoring her orange-colored fur and her spitfire personality.
Feral cats survive by being invisible. Everything is perceived as a threat, so the best defense for feral cats is to remain hidden. Spark selects inside the box springs of our bed as her safe place.
And life goes on…
Then one ordinary morning, while reading my Bible, Spark jumps up and sits in my lap. I had no idea she was in the room with me. I begin to gently stroke her fur. She wants love. I marvel that I have been chosen.
At that moment, I hear, “You are just like Spark in so many ways.”
I thought, “How are we alike?”
The whisper replies, “Fear holds both you and Spark captive.”
Fear is a massive part of who Spark is. I rarely see her. Just because I gave her a home, didn’t mean that the most authentic parts of her would immediately change. She is still feral at heart. I recall how patient I am with Spark. I allow her to choose to come to me. I never force her to accept me. I give her the freedom to explore our relationship on her terms. I give Spark space and time to learn that she can trust me.
Then, I realize fear does hold me captive. God is patient with me. He allows me to move towards him, never forcing me to do anything uncomfortable. He understands my fear, and faithfully waits for me to come out of hiding. God gives me space and time to learn that I can trust him.
Observing Spark’s feral behavior teaches me about my own inner fears. Her ability to eventually trust me offers hope that I can trust God wholeheartedly.
For some reason, I feel drawn to Spark. Maybe she and I are kindred spirits, for she has much to teach me about the power of unconditional love.