I have a black and white cat at home. His name is Neville. I might be slightly biased, but I’m fairly certain that he is one of the cutest cats in the world. In fact, I tell my husband all the time that Neville is lucky that he’s adorable, because he sure is trouble. He loves to knock things off of counters and to go for adventures under the kitchen sink. He jumps on us in the morning to wake us up and sometimes even bites my hair if I’m taking too long to get up and feed him.
Neville gets into a lot of hilarious scrapes. One of the most memorable happened the day after New Year’s Day. I had gone to put some recycling in the blue bin, and the cat managed to escape. I cornered him under a bush, but he dashed out and ran up a tree that is next to our driveway. I couldn’t believe how high he climbed – He was nearly 20 feet up! The only problem was that once he’d gotten there, he realized that he had no way to get down. I thought that the ‘cat stuck in a tree’ scenario was just a cliché from sit-coms, but apparently it does happen in real life. I watched Neville try to find his footing to climb down, only to get scared and stop. He saw me and started meowing pitifully for help. Of course, my husband was working and it was cold and dark, so it was up to me to get the cat safely home. I dragged a ladder out from the garage and propped it up against the tree, praying to God that the ladder would stay secure despite the snow and ice. I climbed to the top of the ladder and I suppose seeing me there encouraged Neville to try to climb down. As soon as he was close enough that I could reach, I grabbed him and tried to pry his paws off the tree, where he had obviously clamped down. It was quite the adventure!
I promise that I have a point to this story. It’s not just an opportunity to demonstrate that I truly am the ‘cat whisperer’. After the incident was over, I kept thinking about it. I was so frustrated with Neville. This is not the first time he has tried to get out, even though he knows that he has to stay inside the house. We give him everything he needs – food, water, love, shelter, toys – and yet at the first opportunity, he bolts out of the open door. I thought about how my kitty had clearly wanted to come to me, yet even when I was trying to pick him up and carry him down to safety, he dug into that tree for dear life. I thought about how the moment I got my feet on solid ground, my cat started wriggling and squirming to be free again. Don’t you love me? I thought. Don’t you realize that I’m trying to do what’s best for you? Of course he doesn’t. He’s a cat, after all.
As I thought about the whole incident, it all became so clear. That frustration that I felt when Neville bolted away? That must be what God feels like with me. How often do I run headfirst into situations that are out of my control, either because I’m scared or bored or because it seems like an inviting prospect at the time? Then suddenly, when I realize that I am way out of my depth and I cannot possibly get out on my own, that’s when I call out to God. How often do I even hesitate to come back to God when He is standing there with His arms outstretched, saying, “Maggie, I’m right here for you”? I thought about how sometimes God saves me when I don’t deserve it, and I’m overjoyed and thankful and my heart is full of worship, but just like Neville, I’m so easily distracted that the minute things get comfortable, my temptation is to go out on my own again. “It’s okay, God. I’ve got it now. I don’t need you anymore.”
Sometimes I get stuck up in the tree of busyness. I take on too many projects and a million commitments, and suddenly I find myself exhausted and crying out, “God, I’m so tired! Help me get some rest!” And then he allows me rest awhile but at the first opportunity, I say yes to something else without praying first. In the past, I got stuck up financial trees, where I spent money on things I didn’t need and
ended up crying for God to help me balance my budget. Maybe for you it’s a bad relationshipp or a destructive habit or an attitude that is damaging your marriage and your family. We all have trees in our life that we tend to climb without thinking about how we’re going to get down.
Reader, I hope you’re wiser than I am. I hope you don’t find yourself stuck in a tree as often as I do, but if you’re like me, you may need the reminder to pray first, use discernment, and remember that God is always there waiting for us to realize how stuck we are. I might have felt a little
stupid (okay, really stupid) standing there on that ladder coaxing my cat to come to me, but I probably look so much more clueless when I am up that proverbial tree panicking instead of realizing that God already has the ladder and is waiting for me to listen for His call.