“Found alone and crying in garden.”
That was what it said at the top of our cat’s intake form from the adoption agency.
I almost cried myself when I read it! Quite a biblical statement, now that I think of it. I suppose we should have named her Magdalene! Instead we named her Kimchi, because my husband has a weird sense of humour.
She was hungry and cold and yet had clearly been cared for at some point in her life. We never found out exactly what had happened to her. If only she could speak.
It might sound cruel, but I knew we’d made the right choice when I realized that her fosters were shooing us quickly out the door because they were about to burst into tears. They both loved her, and had cared for her very well. They told us that she was friendly and loving and funny, and never caused any trouble.
For weeks she was curious and gentle, but very shy. She purred loudly and nervously everywhere she went – cats actually purr for all kinds of reasons, not just when they’re content. And over time, she began to trust us, to feel comfortable in the condo, to hop up on the bed at night, and then, one afternoon nine months in, to hop up on my chair while I was sitting in it and lie in my lap.
I could barely contain myself. I texted a picture to my husband. He texted back, “EEEEEE.”
“Found alone and crying in garden.”
Found, and loved. And love was returned.
What a gift it is to be taught faith by something that can’t even speak to us.
Think of the faith that your pets have, or have had, in you. The irrepressible love, the desire to be with you all the time, the complete trust. It’s what makes them so special. It’s what makes us so devastated when they leave us.
It’s hard to imagine a person having faith like my cat’s. I can’t imagine finding the ability to be so trusting in people after being abandoned like she was.
And yet what choice did she have?
“Increase our faith!” the disciples cry. And yet it’s sort of funny, because they’ve already left behind everything to follow Jesus. They already have tremendous faith. Jesus knows this; he tells them this. It’s not about planting mulberry bushes in the sea. It’s about listening and acting, which they have already done. The problem is not that they’re unequipped for the work; it’s that they’re not finished.
So many people in the church today look at the world around them, and pray for faith – faith for them, for the people they love, for the people in charge, for the people who are on the down and out. They pray and pray…and yet don’t stop and wonder who they think they’re praying to if they have such little faith!
Look around. You are already here, in this place, instead of somewhere else, on a Sunday morning, when you could be sleeping in, or doing any number of other things. You could be plying your trade or having fun with friends and not thinking about all of the work and prayer and saving grace that the world needs.
But you’re not. You’re here.
You do not have the luxury of saying, “Oh, I just wandered in here by accident.” You were called here. And God doesn’t make mistakes. God chose you.
If God chose you, then you are enough. There’s no hiding from it. God’s that frustratingly friendly, mildly annoying person that won’t listen to your excuses. There’s a good example in an episode of a TV show I like where Roger, a selfish alien, decides to marry a sadly desperate woman just so he can get an expensive appliance for free by placing it on the registry. On the day of the wedding, having picked it out from the gifts table, he tries to sneak away before the ceremony even starts, but the bride’s father catches him in the act. Roger tries to dissuade the father by admitting that he is not who he made himself out to be, but the father, who really wants to see his beloved daughter married, will not hear it.
“I’m not really an orthodontist.” “That’s okay. You can work at my greeting card company!”
“I’m not actually Jewish.” “You’ll convert!”
Finally, Roger, out of options, blurts, “I’m not even human!”
The father cries happily, “Who is?”
That’s what God is like.
That incessant. That accepting.
So, convinced you don’t have enough faith? Too bad. God has faith in you. And God is probably the most relentless, faithful force in the universe.
Like that big shaggy dog that gets so excited when you come home that it can’t help but jump on you, even though you always say no. Like my cat, who sticks her paws under the closed bedroom door in the morning because she wants us to just wake up and play with her already!
We made domestic animals that way; trained them to trust us, to live in covenant with us. This is why people get so angry when they’re abused. We can’t imagine something so vulnerable, so trusting, so open to love, being mistreated.
How much more has God made us, breathing that love into our earthy bodies at the sunrise of the world? How much more sad and angry does God feel when we are abused and mistreated, and how much more does God cry out to us to practice justice and love mercy with each other and the earth upon which we live?
There’s a reason that faith is grouped with hope and love. One could almost say that faith is like a synthesis of the two. Faith is about hope in things unseen, but it’s also about trust – think of having faith in a friend or a leader – which in its purest form is another face of love.
It’s hard to imagine having faith like my cat’s.
It’s hard to imagine having faith like Francis’, faith big enough to leave behind security, riches, and a good name, and trade it for ridicule, poverty, and pain.
And yet in doing so, he gained everything.
It seems very foolish. His father certainly thought it was. When Francis took a bolt of expensive cloth from the family shop and sold it to repair a run-down church, Francis’ father took his son to court to demand the money back. Francis insisted that God had spoken to him at the old church, saying, “Francis, Francis, fix my house.” His father didn’t care. “Pay what you owe.”
So Francis took off all of his jewelry, and all of his clothes, and handed them to his father. He stood in the court naked, having divested himself of everything that bound him to his family. Then he left, and never returned.
There was nothing supernatural about that. Francis didn’t move mountains or plant mulberry bushes in the sea. He just listened. Not just “heard,” but “listened,” letting what he had heard and seen move him to action.
So what’s your “Francis, fix my house”?
Think of it less as a command, and more as an invitation.
Friend, search for me.
Friend, let me love you.
Friend, do your work of love.
Remember, faith isn’t just for church. It must be lived in the world. God is on the move, and so are we. Every day, we are found, and every day, we are called.
It took Francis twenty years to act, but he did, and changed the world.
You have been called on a long, wonderful journey.
You’re going to have to think about how you’ll respond.
While you’re thinking about it, and before you go, come to the table, and refresh yourself for the work to come. The one who calls us does so having made a gift of himself for the work.
Come to the table. Feast on love for the work of love.