Zebra, our cat, luxuriates on the bed. He stretches to his length, exposing his spotted belly and invites, “Rub my tummy, scratch my chin.” He tempts, but if I fall for it, one of two things will happen. He will rocket off the bed or snag my hand with front claws, eviscerate with back claws and puncture with teeth. He explodes in escape or attack, then at a safe distance, grooms his outstretched leg or licks a curled paw.
Is Zebra mad? Is he afraid? I never treat him roughly. He enjoys lounging in my lap while I read and snuggling into the crook of my sleeping husband’s knees. He chirps in the morning for breakfast, knowing we will provide. How can he fear us?
My cat boggles me, yet I act cattishly toward God in the same way. I’m eager to push my way under His arms for a quick embrace or bow to Him on behalf of other’s needs. But when it comes to my needs closest to my vulnerable belly, I shoot away from His probes or kick and claw Him. I retreat to lick invisible wounds, then scratch my head at my behavior.
Why do I react this way to God, who loves me? Why is it easy to pray for others but keep Him from delving into my business? Am I afraid? Fear is often the root of anger. Fear of what? Of confronting something worse than uncomfortable?
I behave this way with God and also with friends and they with me. I want to “just be friends.” I balk at true friendship requiring honesty or which smacks of dependence or need. “Back off,” I challenge, if someone gets too close, or else I run away and won’t answer the phone or return messages.
We behave cattishly with God by practicing shallow religion which reveals itself when we study His word but blind ourselves to personal application. It’s the other driver who’s reckless or the other person who always thinks of herself. We can’t let God examine us too closely to expose a truth we don’t want to acknowledge or address. Or when we pray only for physical circumstances and avoid talking to God about issues of our hearts, these signs also point to self-protective religion, a pseudo faith that keeps God at arm’s length.
Henri Nouwen in his book, Open Hands, says,
“No wonder praying presents such a problem, for it requires a constant readiness to lay down your weapons and let go of feelings which tell you to keep a safe distance. It requires you to live in the constant expectation that God, who makes everything new, will cause you to be born again.”
The root of my fear is that God wants to change me, and I fear the cost, the effort and pain change requires. Either in my gut I do not believe in God’s goodness or my desire for control and independence rebels against His authority.
We disdain cats for their independent natures, yet their independence attracts us. They don’t demand much, just an occasional interaction, and that’s all we get, little demand, little payout. In comparison, dogs, “man’s best friend,” follow us with eager eyes for companionship and that’s what they deliver.
What kind of God do we want? One that asks little, that is remote and comes near only when we give permission? Or do we want a Father eternally tied to us? Is He available as part-time-God?
God, our Father, already knows us. He knows all of our movements. He knows our thoughts and our words before they roll off our tongue. He is familiar with our quirks, our dreams, and our dreads. Why hide, when nothing is hidden from Him? Though He knows all, He still loves us unconditionally. That deep love pushes us to grow, to become more of our true selves rid of lies and fears. He desires to be our companion.
Let’s not hide behind the tease of surface religion which invites Jesus near, then cuts and runs or lashes out when He invades our personal space. Let’s meditate on Jesus love and believe His unconditional love is for us. His love is for me and for you.
He invites us to sit with Him until we feel safe enough to confide everything to Him and expose our bellies, saying,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”