My son Ethan has taught our cat, Pancake, to walk on a leash. Pancake, who gets lost easily because of a chronic nose infection, loves to go outside. We got tired of searching for our loveable cat so we confined him to our catio (a backyard enclosure that keeps a cat from escaping). Most nights, Pancake would sit on a living room easy chair and stare longingly at the street. Occasionally he’d voice his feelings with a mournful cry and then offer a long stare and swish of his tail at his mean owners. I’d then drop the curtain and usher him to the backyard. That would only make his tail swish at me using words not suitable to print. As I closed the sliding door, I reminded Pancake to not use such language in front of the children. His tail, in other words, tells lots of tales.
Something drew the Marshall family to purchase a red harness decorated with a smiling cat in white embroidery and matching red six foot leash. The leash is made out of an elastic material which seems to be suited to pull a cat over different outdoor surfaces – grass, concrete, beauty bark and landscaping sand. I say “pull” because most cats when wearing the harness prefer to flop down on their side which, on the somewhat positive side, highlights the smiling kitty image on the chest strap. If one wants to walk with one’s cat, the only way to do it is to take the cat for a drag – across the lawn, the street and the landscaping. And that’s how it was with us until we finally caught up to Elijah who was pulling Pancake. The two of them looked like the paddle and ball game with Elijah as the paddle and Pancake as the ball.
After a lot of patience and diligent work, Ethan trained Pancake to walk all the way around Eastlake on a leash. No dragging, no running, the two of them walk all the way around with a few breaks here and there to enjoy the view. Many folks are surprised and energized when they see the smiling couple, a 12 year old holding the leash of a cat. I know that cats don’t smile in the traditional human sense, but Pancake is happy when he’s walking. No longer do we have the mournful cry of a cat who wants to be outside and no longer does his tail swish in an insulting way.
Saint Paul writes that perfect freedom is found in Christ. This is not the type of freedom we might expect. It’s a freedom that is like following a path. Pancake has found happiness with Ethan and the leash. The cat is harnessed to someone who will protect and guide – away from dogs and joggers. At the same time, Pancake is where he dreams to be, outside.
Freedom in Christ involves a leash, you on one end, Christ on the other. He won’t let you walk too far ahead, or fall too far behind. He’ll keep you on the safe path, steer you around overzealous dogs, away from oblivious joggers, and will give you a rest on a rock overlooking a calm lake (and maybe even let you chase a few ducks). Freedom in Christ also shows God’s patience with us. God will train, train and train more. As we flop on the ground and refuse to be led, God will be patient.
For those of us who long to be outside, yet get lost easily, Christ will patiently guide us.