I have been a cat-owner all of my adult life. Their personalities are fascinating and they make great lap-warmers in the winter. Our cats think they make great lap-warmers even in the heat of summer, but that’s a whole different story.
Our gray cat, Zane, named after Zane Gray, the author of several western novels, weighs almost 20 lbs. As one friend puts it, he is a big boy. When Zane is on my lap there is room for nothing else. Zane is our weather forecaster, at least when it comes to rain. He is afraid of rain and before it even starts he heads for the basement.
This is the first year that Zane’s fur has matted. Not because it is long but because it is thick. It is the soft undercoat that in a few places has turned into a thick mat of inter-woven fur. A brush or comb will not phase it. It needs to be cut out. Fortunately, Zane doesn’t seem to care how he looks
The thing is, you would never know that his fur is matted by simply looking at it. The top layer is as smooth as can be. It’s only when you start poking around that you notice there are clumps of fur under that smooth, soft outer coat. It is the clumped under-coat that keeps him warm in the winter.
I find the matted fur frustrating. It feels odd once you know it’s there. Zane is not as soft and smooth and soothing to pet once you have discovered the matting. IT’s similar to when you notice something stuck in your teeth – you can’t stop your tongue from going there. And cutting it out seems to be the only solution.
I often learn things from our cats – the art of stretching, the importance of sleeping, the grace of not caring what you look like. But I think Zane’s matted fur says something about life.
On the outside we all do our best to look like everything is under control. Things are in order and our lives are running smoothly. But underneath that outer layer we all have tangled lives. When you go poking around you find entangled histories, relationships that are complicated and sometimes like knots, and emotions that seem indecipherable. Add to that different languages, faiths, countries of origin, cultures and different experiences because of skin-color and you have a lot of coming together that does not ever seem possible. There would be no way I could join together two separate clumps of matted fur on Zane, and he’s just one cat!
So, what do we do? I’m not entirely sure. I keep thinking that Zane’s matted fur must feel odd for him, but there is no indication that that is the case. Only when I’m poking around does he seem to mind. But maybe that’s how it is for us, too. We can cover up our less-than-perfect selves until someone goes poking around. Then, it starts to feel bad. Then, it’s almost impossible to ignore.
One thing we can do is to acknowledge those complicated layers of our own selves. Some of them protect us, much the way Zane’s fur, before it was matted, helped to keep him warm. Some of it starts to feel odd when it is poked at. It might be necessary to deal with that once in a while.
The truth is, even though I find Zane’s matted fur frustrating and kind of icky, I still love him, whatever that means. And I’m quite sure God loves us, even with our inner layers of complicated lives and histories and relationships. Even when they seem less than positive to us.
So, what we can do is our best at loving ourselves and each other. And that’s about it. The only way that is possible is remembering that God first loves us, and then we can move on as best we can.
It’s also a good idea to take a good stretch once in while, just to work out some of the kinks.
See you in church,