My cat Fritz is the most expressive cat I’ve ever known, particularly when it comes to showing affection. Every morning, he jumps on the bed, trots up to my face, sits on my chest, scrubs my neck with his loofah tongue, and nudges his whiskery head against my cheek. Then he stands up, spins around, kneads me with his dull claws, and flops down again.
He repeats these sitting, standing, kneading pirouettes over and over, as if he’s so ecstatic he can’t contain himself. Eventually, he settles down in the crook of my arm, like a fur-swaddled infant. All the while, he’s purring like a coffee pot and letting me know in no uncertain terms that he is VERY HAPPY to see me. It’s is a wonderful way to greet the day.
Just a few months after we brought Fritz and his brother, Lewis, home, I was reading Souvenirs of Solitude by Brennan Manning. He was talking about God’s love, and I was moving along, enjoying the text, when I was brought to a stop by this God-whisper in my heart: “You think your cat loves you more than I do?”
Yikes. Did I really?
In the next few moments, three things happened:
- God revealed the poverty of my understanding of His love as I realized that, on some level, I did feel my cat loved me more. During our morning cuddles, I have no doubt Fritz loves me. But God? Even though I believe He loves me, probably like many people, I have an internal tug of war between what I know intellectually and how I feel internally. And, too-often, what I feel is a big question mark. I envision Him as stern-faced and serious, and it leaves me wondering: Is He truly happy with me? Is He disappointed? Annoyed?
- The absurdity of doubting God’s love became clear. It is ridiculous to think that a cat loves me more than the One who breathed and birthed me into being, the One who sacrificed his own Son to have a relationship with me. Does an artist cherish her masterpiece? Does a parent adore his child? There should be no doubt God treasures His creation (us!) in the same way.
- After this honest assessment of my heart and asking God to forgive me for doubting Him, He brought me to a new level of experience by giving me a tangible picture of His love. It was like He said, “Look, you underestimate my love—vastly. Let me put it in terms you can understand. See how much your cat loves you? Can you believe I love you like that? And infinitely more?"
What a balm to my heart. And how kind of Him to express this in a way I can relate to! I feel warm inside even now as think about it.
Somehow, this encounter with God opened me to receive His affection in a new way. I imagine Him nuzzling my face, the way my cat does, the way a mother or father does with a baby. I actually see Him smiling and looking at me with bright delight. I’ve begun to learn that, far from being stoic or stern, his demeanor toward me is joyful and exuberant.
I am reminded of this vividly when Fritz is most fervent. But now I don’t just feel Fritz’s love—I feel God’s, and my soul feels nourished, satisfied and soothed.
How about you? What has God used to give you a deeper awareness of His love? If you have a pet, does your relationship with him or her give you any insight into your relationship with God?
I’d love to hear about it!
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