Retractable claws

img_2729I can still hear the pitiful meowing in the background when I answered a call from my daughter Mary on that fateful summer day. Mary’s first words were, “Please don’t say no, Mom!” Mary was a rising senior in high school at the time and was on the cross country team. After her initial plea, she went on to explain they’d found some kittens upon arriving at school for the morning run. The one I heard mewing had been extricated from a crack in the stairs by Justin, her then-boyfriend-now-husband, and Mary wanted to adopt her. I told her I’d consider it. She called back at the appointed time an hour later and, in a moment of weakness or perhaps temporary insanity, I said yes. What was I thinking???

Mind you we already had an 11 year old male cat, Willie, who considered our house to be his territory and his alone. We kept Millie, as Mary decided to call her, in a bathroom when she first joined our family. Even though he was unable to see her, Willie sensed her presence and hissed every time he passed the door that separated him from his future nemesis. Although they eventually reached some kind of feline truce, I don’t think I’ve ever heard as much hissing as in their first few weeks of cohabitation. At best, they learned to tolerate each other.

It soon became apparent Willie wouldn’t be the only one at odds with Millie. In spite of the fact Justin was the one to free her from the crevice at school, she was a one-person cat and that person was Mary. She would stare adoringly at her, purring all the while. Try as I might to make friends with her, my attempts rarely elicited anything remotely like a purr and there were certainly no adoring looks.

But Mary grew up and went to college, a place where kitties aren’t allowed in dorms so Millie was left at home with me. I suppose some interaction is better than none since Millie would occasionally condescend to rubbing my legs for attention. At first I thought, “Isn’t that nice? She’s finally warming up to me.” She even started to purr, albeit begrudgingly. Then, before I knew what was happening or had time to protect myself, she bit me. This scenario played out a few more times, with me giving her the benefit of the doubt, hoping we would eventually establish a friendly rapport. It didn’t happen and I finally gave up, as she wounded not only my hands and feet with her sharp teeth, but also my feelings with her insincere gestures of camaraderie.

I’ve known some people like Millie. They’ve feigned friendship for their own gain. Fortunately they’ve been few in number, but the pain caused by their disingenuous behavior lingers as does the grief over my inability to make things work.

A computer-aided search of Scripture yields over 120 references for the terms “forgive”, “forgiveness” or “forgiven”.[1] Multiple New Testament texts instruct us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.[2] Yet forgiveness doesn’t automatically lead to reconciliation, as Susan Hunt so aptly states in her book, “Spiritual Mothering”:

“Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Often women truly forgive, but because there is no reconciliation with the one who has hurt them they labor under false guilt that they have not done everything they should. Reconciliation requires both repentance and forgiveness. There is a duel responsibility on the part of the offender and the offended. We cannot control the repentance of the one who has hurt us. We can only forgive. Our forgiveness may or may not bring about reconciliation, but it will free us to have a right relationship with God and with others.” [3]

A passage in Romans 12 strikes a similar chord as the Apostle Paul tells his readers, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” [4]

As far as it depends on you. I can only give an account of myself, my thoughts, my actions. [5] And oftentimes, as hard as it is, the best thing we can do is forgive, let go and trust God for the outcome. We can be assured He will work all things together for good.[6]

I see Millie from time to time when I’m at Mary’s house. At age 12 you’d think she might have mellowed some, but she still has a slight scowl that reminds me of Lucy van Pelt of the Peanuts gang and she can make the family’s 75-pound dog back off with her menacing hisses. I acknowledge her presence when our paths cross, usually even say hello . . . but I stay out of striking distance and I certainly don’t seek her out.

[1] Search done of the NIV translation on Biblegateway.com

[2] See, for example, Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Luke 6:37

[3] Susan Hunt, Spiritual Mothering (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1992), 153.

[4] Romans 12:17-18

[5] Romans 14:12

[6] Romans 8:28

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