On days when my life is full of sorrow, rejection, or trial, I look at my cat and say, “Lucky cat. Wish I were you.” On days when my life is full of joy, breakthroughs, and overcoming, I look at my cat and say, “Poor cat. Glad I’m not you.”
Consider the common house cat. Mine has been with me for 13 years. My cat has a good life for a cat. Some of her brethren have to filch through alley trash cans to live, but not Miss Kitty. Food and lodging are supplied. She finds patches of sun and naps in them most of the day. She stands by the door and we open it to let her out. She stands by the door and we open it to let her in. She moseys to the water bowl and drinks. She collects scratches behind the ears. She awakens in the morning with no discernible goals. She is plagued by no discernible jealousies or fears or other negative emotions that human flesh is heir to.
But on the days that you too are tempted to envy my cat, consider this: Where there are no lows, there are also no highs. Where there are no challenges, there are also no triumphs. Where there is no intensity of sorrow, there is also no intensity of joy. Where there are no goals, there are also no accomplishments. The apostle Paul wrote:
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” (Romans 5:3–4, ESV).
If you don’t care about developing the specifically human virtues of endurance and character and hope, then the cat life is for you.
The scary thing is that it is possible for a human being to live like my cat. It is possible to make a life’s work of avoiding work and pain and hurt and rejection and failure. We can do this by never risking love, by never risking rejection in relationships, by never attempting something at which we may possibly fail. I know it for a fact because I have also lived this way in the past.
A person who has lived with self-protection as the highest good may reach the end of her life saying, “There, I did it; I was never rejected and I never failed at anything.” But she will also have no memories or stories or adventures or epiphanies or scars from which to minister, or valuable life lessons to pass on.
Paul said from a prison just before his death:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me, but to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6–8, ESV).
Lord, don’t let me ever live like my cat again.