Cats taught me about love – our natural kind of love.
To the frustration of my parents, the shophouse that we used to live in somehow attracted stray cats to use it as a transitory place. No doubt because of the treatment that they received from my mum and me – being the animal lovers in the family – as well as the rice mixed with tuna that my mum would serve them from time to time. Although she scolded me from playing with them, she loved the cats really. Two cats ended up adopting our house – one after the other, and one was so attached to me that she insisted that I stayed with her when she delivered her kittens. They all had to endure the strange names that I gave them, as a payback.
Cats are very affectionate – they love to rub themselves on our legs and with the seductive miaow, they demand their food while happily purring away. They love to be pleased – and somehow I get the feeling that my cats used to love me for the things that I could give them, and not for being me. When we stopped giving the strays any food, they stopped coming and found other food outlets, even when they had to make do with scraps and leftovers on the road.
Now contrast this with dogs – the way that unconditional love should be.
Although dogs are incredibly intelligent, somehow they are often considered dumb compared to cats – take Odie and Garfield for instance. Cats are probably aware that you stepped out of the house an hour ago – they would only greet you with a long yawn and a long stretch, demanding to be scratched or fed. Whereas dogs would seem to be dumb, greeting you with the same enthusiasm and gusto, whether you were out for an hour or for a couple of days. With tail wagging, they would greet you as if you were their biggest hero – ever! Whether dogs are fed or not, they would still display the love and loyalty to their owner; whereas cats would voice their displeasure if you fail to meet their needs. Of course this is a gross generalisation – there are some rude dogs as well who would raise havoc until they are fed, but this is what we tend to experience.
Now why am I talking about cats and dogs, you say?
Having been a born-again Christian for around nineteen years means that I’ve pretty much lost some of the enthusiasm and zeal that I possessed then in 1991. Study, career and other things tend to distract me from God even though I doggedly hang on to my faith. Then in the last couple of months I have felt some restlessness with my relationship with God – I miss the intimacy and the closeness that I had. I miss my first love. In Revelations 2, God warns the church in Ephesus that they have lost their first love even though they have been patient, hardworking and unwavering in their pursuit of righteousness. Everytime people pray with me, I have conveyed the same prayer request – for me to regain the intimacy with God. Then, the answer came to me.
I have been acting like a cat with God – loving Him because of what He gives me or what He can potentially give me. A very strategic and calculative love. Then when things are not going according to what I wish, I stop ‘purring’ and start to voice my displeasure. I forgot to act like my baptism namesake Caleb, which incidentally means, dog. Dogs would always greet their master with the same enthusiasm – not for the things that they can get, but just to show their pure unconditional loyalty and love. Dogs love to please their master – and that is what I need to do, an intense loyalty, love and enthusiasm. A display of first love, everytime I have an encounter with God – tail and body wagging and a big sloppy kiss. I haven’t done this recently – I have done too much thinking and calculating again. It’s hard not to think too much especially when I work in an academic setting. You may say that there is no place for faith in science and academia – but just like what my pastor said this evening, it’s hard to analyse love. Too mysterious to be totally understood.
I know that I’m more than just a beloved canine in my God’s eyes – I’m a treasured possession and the apple of His eye – much more than what a dog can ever claim. It’s just that I need to re-immerse myself and delight myself in God, so everytime I am in my quiet time and read the Word of God, I am like a dog, all enthusiastic, tail-wagging, eager to meet his Master with an unwavering sense of loyalty and love.