I lost a good friend recently. A friend whose gentle companionship and unconditional acceptance is now missing from my days. For twelve years my cat, Pete, greeted me each morning with his distinctive squawky meow, asking for his breakfast in his gentlemanly way. Evenings he curled up on the back of the couch, his comforting purr sounding like an idling tractor in my ear. He wasn’t a lap cat, preferring instead to sit near where he could receive an occasional chin rub and hear the voices of his humans.
When I became Pete’s owner, he was already a mature cat with a sad history. He had been abandoned, then passed from home to home before he came to live with me. Once he knew he was in a safe place he relaxed into the mellow, slightly world-weary feline comrade I grew to love. I understand that cats are instinctive creatures. Much of their behavior is a result of God’s design for their survival, but there were aspects of Pete’s personality that revealed things I believe God wanted me to learn.
When Pete came to live with me, I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. After a morning at the hospital, I would go to bed to fight through the effects of the toxic drugs. Chills, nausea, foggy brain — Pete saw it all from his post on an old towel laid on the bed. Except for brief visits to his food dish and litter box, he never left my side. For 10 months, one week out of four, Pete kept vigil. His constancy brought me comfort, as if he knew he had a job to do by staying close. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17
Pete adored my bath mat. Something about its thick, soft material put him in his happy place. After my shower he would flop down on that mat, curl himself into an upside down comma and grin. Then great purring would commence, along with stretching and kneading. Pete did contentment well. He found little things (like a bath mat) that brought him contentment and he revelled in them, enjoying the moment for what it was. He didn’t worry about the rest of his day, or what happened yesterday; he was content for right now. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” – 1 Timothy 6:6
The purchase of a new couch and love seat meant no shedding cat allowed. At least that was my resolution, but Pete had another idea. Loud clapping, shooing, pushing and even squirts from a water sprayer did not deter this cat from his self-appointed task of taking over the new furniture. Eventually his tenacity won out, while I collapsed in defeat, exhausted from jumping up constantly to get him off.
Tenacity borders on obstinacy but it also reflects perseverance. Although I lost the battle, I had to admire Pete’s determination. He knew what he wanted — to be on the couch. He knew what he had to do to get there — keep jumping up, no matter what. He knew he would face opposition, but he was determined to persevere. Maybe I’m giving his little walnut-sized brain more credit than is due, but it sure seemed like he was out to win! And he did. End of story, except for what I learned from it. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4
Pete was just a little charcoal-colored tabby, but God used him as a catalyst (pardon the pun) to teach me bigger lessons about living a godly life. You will be missed, Mr. Pete!