Hidden in the Shadow(s)

Deuteronomy 11:19 New International Version (NIV)

19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

There are many times in our lives, where God teaches us something about Himself that is profound yet very simple.  It is in these profoundly simplistic moments, that God them turns to us and tells us to teach our children about these lessons.  Today, I received one of those lessons and am passing this along to you (as well as my children).

One of the hardest things we can do as human beings is give our love, our life to our pets.  Why would this be considered hard?  Well, we see this helpless creature looking at us with big eyes and unconditional love.  Our hearts are moved by this and we adopt them.  Over time, we learn that this pet needs to be trained.  Many sleep nights are spent comforting this new addition, giving them the love, attention and discipline they need to become productive members of our family.  They learn the necessity of either using a wee-wee pad, litter box or the outdoors for their bathroom needs.  They learn to share their toys and play in a way that is beneficial to both human and pet alike.

As time goes on, we experience the joy and frustration of helping an animal who can’t communicate the way we do.  We guess and what the animal may be asking for.  We discipline them when they do something like bit or scratch the furniture.  We care for them, we love them and in return, they love us with an unconditional love.

However, in the last days of their lives, we also have to make that most hideous call…whether to allow them to pass on or not.  This decision is never an easy one.  The pet has become a member of the family.  They have experienced joy and happiness, sickness and health and yet, they continue to love you all the more and in return, you love them all the more.

Today, I had to make that hard decision.  But I also get to share with you the joys and lessons learned from my first cat, Shadow.

About a decade ago, my wife was putting out the garbage.  She opened the garbage can and out jumped this black cat.  Although my wife learned she was allergic to cats, she felt compassion on her and wanted to do something.  She got bread, made some small wads of bread balls and tossed them to her.

When I came home, I learned about this but was very hesitant as I was taught, “once you begin feeding the cat, they keep coming back.”  Instead of forgetting she was there, we decided to pursue her.  Shadow didn’t want to come near to us.  She hid in the shadows of the bushes.  This was why we called her Shadow.  She was scared.  She didn’t know who she could trust.  She had no intentions on pursuing a relationship with us.  But we had intentions on having a relationship with her.  We chose her to be our first pet.  And because we chose her, we pursued that relationship with her.  Which leads me to my first lesson from God….  We didn’t pursue or choose God.  It was God who chose and pursued us.

Just as we decided to pursue her, God decided to pursue us first.  In Ephesians 1 we read, “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  In Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep and how the shepherd goes out to look for it.  In John, Jesus then claims, “I am the good shepherd.”  It is Jesus who pursues the sheep.  It is Jesus who chose us.

Just as Shadow was terrified of us, we too can be terrified when Jesus pursues us.  What is He like?  Will He do things that hurt me?  Will He actually take care of me?  It is then that Jesus throws us the small balls of bread…His Word.  We smell His Word.  We play with His Word.  But it isn’t until we ingest His Word that we feel the nourishment He wants to give to us.

Well, Shadow continued to hide in the shadow of the bushes.  But after weeks of throwing her food, we began to lay the food down at the bottom of our stoop.  We could sit on the stoop, while she fed on the nourishment we provided.  As she ate, we could talk to her.  Tell her that everything was going to be okay.  Allow her to get used to our voices.  We never forced ourselves on her, we just patiently waited for her to begin to trust us.  Why would she trust us?  Because we cared for her.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”  Peter also writes, “…cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”  We love because God loved us first.  Even though we are scared, we can trust Him and place all of life’s worries on Him because He cares for us.  Just as we never forced ourselves on Shadow, God never, and I mean never, forces Himself on us.  He shows us He loves us by giving us a little nourishment and talking with us, even though we are scared of Him.

Well, after a while, Shadow disappeared.  We were concerned, but realized that maybe God just wanted us to learn these two lessons so that we can share the Gospel easier and softer with others.  About a month later, I opened the door to leave and viola…there was Shadow.  What had happened to her?  Where did she go?  Did someone else take care of her?  We had no idea until one of our neighbors saw us with her and said, “You have the mama cat?”  Whaaaaat?

As it turned out, Shadow was pregnant and had four kittens.  The vet who lived on our block had taken her after she gave birth and took care of all of her medical conditions.  What the vet didn’t realize was that he just answered a prayer of mine.  You see, I had prayed that if Shadow was to be our cat, that somehow, He would have to take care of all that we cannot take care of financially.  Everything we had prayed for was covered.

This was the third lesson we learned.  God takes care of us, not just partially, but fully.  Everything.  All of it.  Every last worry.   God takes care of it all.  This was why Peter was so confident when he said, “cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”  Peter knew that God would take care of it all.  Just as the vet covered all of the debt we could not handle, Jesus covered all of our debt with His death on the cross and resurrection.  We could never repay the debt we owed to God, therefore, Jesus covered our debt…all of our debt by sacrificing Himself for us.

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” – John 10:17-18

Jesus gave His life up.  How much love did that take?  I know I don’t even come close to that much love.  But because He first loved us, He allowed His death to happen.  And because He has so much love for us, He died for us but He also rose for us as well.  Jesus took care of what needed to be done fully.

There have been so many lessons we’ve learned from Shadow.  It was in this light that when the decision to allow her to pass on came today, I didn’t take it lightly.  I wept.  I had just asked God, last night to give me the knowledge and wisdom necessary to make the hard decision, if it were to come.  Today, God made it very easy.  When the vet called me, she let me know that there was a mass behind her one eye, masses in her lungs and possibly more throughout her body.  The doctor told me that although Shadow never complained about the pain, there was evidence that she was in pain.  Therefore, with great comfort, I gave her the task of allowing Shadow’s life to end peacefully.  It was then that my final Shadow lesson came…  When our time comes for our lives to end, how will we go out?

Will we trust the God, who has cared for us fully, to end our lives the way He sees fit?  Will we just stay silent, never complaining about our pain and suffering, knowing the One who takes care of us can fully make that decision based on what is best for us?

Shadow can never be replaced.  She was my first pet, my first cat and my first furry friend that gave me a great insight as to the mind of God and how He operates.

I hope you find comfort in this.  I hope that you will trust God for the hard times.  Share God’s lessons with your children.  Share them with others, that they may take comfort in them.

When our time comes for us to move from this world into the next, how will we respond?  Maybe, we can respond like Shadow….loving our Caretaker, never complaining about our pain but always trusting that our Caretaker will make the BEST decisions for us.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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