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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cotton, the Kitten

A very pregnant cat lay at the entrance of a gas station crying to give birth. My compassionate daughter couldn’t ignore her there and brought her home. The cat birthed 4 kittens which we kept until they were weaned and then we took all to the SPCA, except one of the males because my wife knew someone who asked for it.

But unforeseen factors prevented that person from taking the kitten, so it slowly became a part of our home. My wife named it Cotton because it was pure white, however we held out hope that it would be taken. But no one wanted the little white kitten, and, with exception of being deaf, it grew healthy and energetic and finally needed to get outside. So he’d spend the day playing out in the front yard, hiding in the azalea bushes or under the porch, pretending he was a panther lurking in the deep dark jungle.

He started getting bolder. Almost every day when I would come home from work, he would jump out from behind the railroad ties we use to border the parking spot in our yard. He would arch his back to be scary and, half-nerved, pounce at my feet; and then run away after putting fear into me—like a hit and run. He was starting to tie knots in my heart and my apathy toward another pet began to wane.

But now Cotton was a few months old; and just as I had gotten attached to him, a terrible tragedy occurred. My daughter’s boyfriend and I got in his car for a quick spin around the block. There was no sign of Cotton; but as we started backing up, the kitten darted out from under the car and over to the pickup. We stopped and got out to see if he was hurt. He was hurt badly and lying over by the truck, breathing heavy, but just laying still, too hurt to cry. He was going to die.

We wanted to pick him up and take him into the house but we thought his back might be broken, or there might be organ damage from being run over, so I just spoke softly to him and held his head, stroking it very gently. He lasted maybe half a minute, then spit up some blood and went limp.

I can’t forget his look of innocence and sorrow mixed. Maybe kittens aren’t capable of blaming and condemning; nevertheless, his look of friendly acceptance never accused me of hurting him. That sad moment I can’t erase from my memories. He died in great pain for no cause of his own, and looked to us to help him to the bitter end.

That image leaves a solemn attitude in me. I never got to say good-bye. I never got to pick him up and show him that I loved him. But he was a life, he was energy and excitement and joy. And he trusted in me to never hurt him. Yet he died because of me.

You can’t know how I feel about the death of this cat because you didn’t experience him. But you have your own pets and loved ones—and maybe your own tragedies.

When I related this to a friend, she had her own story. Donna was waiting outside on a really cold winter day. Her daughter was just a baby and it was so cold that day that my friend had to put her baby inside her coat. As she listened, she heard a bird singing. It sang and sang. Then suddenly it just dropped to the ground, dead. It froze and was calling out for help, but no help came. That made my friend very sad.

In spite of the terribleness of it, our tragedies affect us for the good. They empower us to leave our self-pity to begin being pitiful and sympathetic of others; they change us from self-engrossment to being other-focused. They alter us, and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

It was for this purpose that the animal sacrifice system was instituted by God at the beginning. When a baby lamb had a knife put to its throat by someone who couldn’t carry their burden of guilt anymore, or a little sparrow died from a broken neck, having had his head wrung by a priest in behalf of a penitent sinner, pangs of sorrow penetrated to the core of that individual. Sacrificing is serious business; but it had to be. Though now dead, the memory of that precious little animal or bird left a new melancholy and solemn view on life that acted as a check to sinful self-centeredness and rebellion. Through the sacrifice, the guilty sinner became dead to sin and alive again to holiness, to wholeness. As much as Jesus loves to hear the little sparrows sing and see the lambs and kittens romp and play, He would allow them to be killed if that might turn us revolting rebels around. This doesn’t lessen the value of animals, it exalts the value of the unworthy human in God’s sight.

Those sacrifices were a shadow of things to come. They all foreshadowed the ultimate offering of innocence and purity, the Messiah, the innocent Lamb of God. If we would review the scenes from Gethsemane to Golgotha, the impact would rivet us to self-sacrifice. Christ died not only in our place, but at our hand. Not only would we have done what those soldiers and priests and people did to Him, we have done the same to Him and to the Father even today, and all during our lifetimes. It was my sin that blocked His view of His dearest Friend and my sin crushed out His life. He, the perfectly innocent, must perish if He insists on associating with a race of sinners like ours. In order to give me of His life to rescue me from drowning in a world of living death, I live and He suffocates. We trade life for death; I walk away alive, Him dead.

Never, throughout His ordeal, did He denounce, blame, accuse, and shout anathemas at us. No condemnation, but rather forgiveness to a world of sinners; in His acceptance for Barabbas’ accomplice He reaches out to a world of thieves and murderers like you and me, offering pardon for faith like He heard from the dying convict next to Him that day.

Overcome by trauma and shock, that kingly head lays limp on His chest; His healing hands mangled, His travelled feet broken, His hair torn and pulled out, His merciful face bruised and stained and reeking with priests’ and soldiers’ saliva. Having died in utter grief without any evidence for hope, His countenance is only sorrow; no furled brow betrays revenge. That scene Paul could never forget. It’s all he could think of; its all he could talk about.

Do we feel the riveting tragedy? Does it shake us from our self-complacency? If not, why not? This post can never take you there. The cross has no efficacy unless you go there yourself. We all must go there and stay. The effect does not happen instantaneously. Our mind, dulled from a lifetime of sin, wakens slowly to sorrow and sympathy; so time at the cross is key to a permanent change of heart toward it.

Do I sound self-centered and uncaring about the death of animals? The animal kingdom is full of death and competition for life. We are surrounded by tragedy. Those Old Dispensation victims of sacrifice were only a few examples throughout nature of every victim of a predator or starvation or disease. But not only will the Lord use nature, we also see human tragedies which He uses to get our heart’s attention. As it is written, “Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Is. 43:4.

Let us take each tragedy we encounter, in domesticated life or in the wild, as an opportunity for the Spirit to brand upon our imagination, to seal forever in our foreheads, the infinite sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. That we being dead to sin might live unto righteousness. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1Pet. 2:25.

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