I am a dog person.
I would have stood behind a panel of jurors and declared that fact with unwavering certainty. If I were on trial for loving dogs, I would have gone to jail. I was not only a dog lover, I was a cat hater! I was equally passionately sure that I did not like and would never like cats!
I don’t know what happened.
Just as much as I cannot imagine my life without my pooch, I am equally smitten with this kitten! You could chalk it up to him being a baby, no doubt that doesn’t hurt, but I don’t love him for his looks even though he is cute as a, well, a kitten! I love him because he is Peter. He is boisterous and fast, feisty and fun! He can tire himself out running after my feet only to turn around and find him cuddling with one of the dog’s toys sucking his paw. (Yes! He sucks his paw! How sweet is that?!)
I’m so glad I met Peter. I’m so glad my daughter was down-right ridiculously set on getting a cat. I am so glad that despite years on animosity toward the feline kind, I opened up my heart to love that which I once was sure I hated.
There are aspects of cats that I’m not altogether crazy about – changing out litter would be on the top of my list, but I don’t mind doing those things because I know who I’m doing it for and Peter is worth it. I value him; he is like a child to me. Scratches fade away in the comforting purr of a contented kitty.
And as a child of God, this challenges me.
It should challenge all of us.
How many times have we decided based on first impression or past experiences that we hate certain people? Now the Jesus loving side of us will reject that word vehemently, “I don’t HATE them. I just don’t like them.” The older I get, the more I live, the more I realize that you can’t truly love someone you don’t like. You can’t.
In us, if we are Christ followers, beats a heart not bound by judgement or prejudice. It’s the heart of God, and we can choose to follow that heart or set up walls of derision. The danger is when we begin to mistake our heart for the heart of God. I think it was Ann Lamott that said, “You have created God in your own image when you find He hates all the same people you do.”
How, we wonder? How can He love the selfish and the sinful, the righteous and the rebellious? How? Well, He knows us. We aren’t a mass of people relegated and viewed through the prejudiced eyes of flesh that chooses to look past frailties and base judgements on momentary actions. We are individual, specific, intimately known and consequentially loved.
Before I knew Peter, I had lumped him in a category called “cats” in a pile called “not interested.” In fact, it took quite a bit of convincing by my daughter to even consider having a cat! She was persistent. She KNEW I would love him. “Mom, you know you’ll fall in love. You love everyone! You will love my cat.” I wasn’t so sure.
I was allergic.
That’s what I told myself, and to be honest, I was convinced I was! I would get a dry feeling in my throat, my skin would itch, my eyes would water. Allergy. Has to be. Ironically, I have none of those symptoms with Peter.
We convince ourselves of the same things, “I can’t be around that person.” Instead of itch, they make us twitch. Instead of watering eyes, we squint our eyes, watching for any and every excuse to NOT have to accept them – whoever they are. And you know who they are. You’ve spent a lot of energy distancing yourself from them.
But what if, your fears and insecurities have you missing out on Peter? What if beyond a category or a predetermined prejudice you got to know the person? It changes things. So, do so at your own risk. But, you will lose nothing, and you just might gain more than you ever knew you were missing! I challenge you, please, open your heart, and the mind will follow.