Loving the Unlovable

My Cat Shadow

This is Shadow, looking poised and queenly. Don’t be fooled.

Last week I had to take my Domestic Shorthair cat, Shadow, to the vet. We had begun to notice strange small bumps on her neck, back, and tail. They looked like they might be ticks, but not being an outdoor cat, it would be unusual for her to have ticks. I called the vet’s office and described what we were seeing. They suggested bringing her in.

Cue dramatic music.

As the time for Shadow’s appointment drew near, I dreaded what I knew was coming. You probably have not experienced pure, unleashed fury until you’ve been with my Shadow in the vet’s office. No, really. She’s no longer that poised, regal cat you see in the photo.

A Tale of Two Shadows

Shadow transforms into 15 pounds of furry feline ferocity on the vet’s table. Think Sibyl. On steroids.

Getting her loaded into her crate at home is the easy part. Usually nothing gets scratched, bitten or broken.

Typically, a trip to the vet involves depositing both cats into two different crates when they are due for yearly shots. This time, when I did not put my sweet-natured Siamese Simon into his crate, he acted as though he’d escaped the flames of hell. Only he and I (and the staff at the animal hospital) have witnessed Shadow in her full fury.

To give you an idea, Shadow’s crate must be completely dismantled to extract her from within before the examination can begin. And it takes me, the vet, and the assistant to get her tucked safely back inside at the end. “Safely,” meaning us, safe from Shadow’s wrath, once again.

During the exam, the assistant and I work as a team to restrain my 15-pound, 69-in-human-years-old feline and keep the bloodshed to a minimum while she growls, hisses, spits and spins her head around 360 degrees. The assistant, mind you, has the luxury of wearing thick leather gloves.

Loving Beyond the Ugliness

No matter how much spitting, howling, biting, growling ugliness she displays, I feel empathy for Shadow during these trips to the vet. I know why she behaves so badly. She’s terrified! Forced to leave the comfort and safety she’s known day in and day out, she’s fearful, overwhelmed with insecurity, and in pain.

Does my Shadow’s mean and defensive demeanor remind you of some of the more difficult people you’ve encountered in ministry? It certainly did me when I had this revelation some years ago. When I’ve tried to see hurting and angry people as I see Shadow, it’s helped me to respond to them with more compassion and patience, realizing they feel just as threatened and afraid.

Perhaps that’s how Christ was able to look on the angry mob at his crucifixion and say with tenderness, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT)

When the religious leaders began to grind their teeth in anger at Stephen, eventually stoning him death, was this how he was able to pray with compassion for his killers? Stephen’s last words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60, NLT)

Yes, only a heart that looks beyond a person’s (or cat’s) outward ugliness can love this way. Loving the unlovable is only possible with God’s unconditional love flowing in and through us.

Fortunately, Shadow’s bumps turned out to be nothing serious. Just old lady, uh, I mean, old cat skin bumps that did not need a biopsy. That would have required the kitty anesthesiologist as well as several more dollars. So, thank you, merciful Jesus!

By the time I arrived home one hour later, my other cat Simon had convinced his 7-pounds of sleek and slinky self that he was now, for the first time, king of the Fairchild castle. But then Queen Shadow strolled gracefully from her crate, and instantly he knew he’d been dethroned.

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5 Responses to “Loving the Unlovable”

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  1. Lana says:

    You have such a wonderful way of telling real life stories and turning them into applications for our Christian walk! This story helped me to remember that I have been and still can be that ‘unlovely’ person that is hard to love at times too. Oh to be more like Jesus.

  2. Reveler says:

    Thanks, Jack! I seem to need regular reminders of this. The look of fear and dislike in the vet’s assistant’s eyes this time brought the lesson back to the forefront for me.

  3. Jack Zavada says:

    Mary, you’re spot on with this post. It’s sad that Hollywood, the fashion industry, and magazines have convinced us you have to meet their standards of “beauty” to be lovable.

    Jesus loved beggars, lepers, prostitutes and the so-called lower members of society. He looked inside, at people’s hearts.

    This article is a good reminder for all of us to go beyond outward appearance.

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