The Joy of Pets

Anne Witton 1 month ago
Blog 2 mins

The last thing I wanted was to become a crazy cat spinster. I was talking to a friend a few years ago and she’d suggested getting a pet moggie to help stave off loneliness. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea, especially as I had a bad track record with hamsters. I also doubted whether an animal would be an adequate substitute for another human being to share my life with. And it’s true that animals aren’t people-replacements. But they can bring love and joy into our lives and give us a glimpse into God’s heart when we’re feeling hurt and lonely and unloveable.

Toby

Fast-forward a few years and I finally took the plunge and got a rescue cat. For a couple of nights before my housemate and I collected Toby, I didn’t sleep very well as various thoughts were going through my mind. What if he’s aggressive? What if he shreds all our furniture? What if he’s sick everywhere? What if he doesn’t like us? What if he stinks? He’s nine years old and has kidney disease and no one had wanted to adopt him in two years, so I felt these were legitimate concerns. I said to my housemate that if he was sick, I was taking him straight back. But once we got him home, a weird thing happened. The first time he was sick, we both ignored the rug he’d just ruined and rushed over to check he was alright. We wanted to clean him up and cuddle him and reassure him that we loved him because he’s ours.

I was thinking that, to God, I’m often stinky and diseased. I disobey him by wilfully doing the wrong thing. I hurt other people and myself. I metaphorically puke up and make a mess and spoil things. But that doesn’t repel God. It just makes him want to draw me nearer in his loving arms. It arouses his instinct to protect and provide even more. Because I am his. As Dane Ortlund observes, ‘When we sin, the very heart of Christ is drawn out to us.'1 God loves us so much; he longs to pick us up, wipe the muck off, heal our wounds, and embrace us with his love.

When I got a cat, I was expecting to enjoy an occasional cuddle, but God surprised me by teaching me a profound lesson about his wonderfully compassionate heart for sinners like me.

  1. Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Crossway, 2020), p.69.