Since Isaac the dog & I adopted each other, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, "Are you walking that dog, or is the dog walking you?" Anyone for a mile could see that 60-pound Isaac needed leash training. I signed him up for obedience lessons to cut back on the asking of this question--and to ease the pain in my sore shoulders and back! The training has been working, slowly but surely, and one morning this week I was especially proud of the pup. We were walking at a leisurely pace with very little pulling from him. I was listening to praise & worship music. The temperature was not too cold, not too hot. I was able to have some good prayer time as the dog and I walked side by side. All seemed right with the world.
As we passed the halfway mark of our journey, Isaac began to slow down. I assumed he was tired but hoped he was being overly obedient. "Come on; let's go," I said enthusiastically. He'd speed up only to slow down again. "What's up with him?" I asked myself. I kept prodding him forward as sounds of "Praise the Lord!" played from my earbuds. How could he be acting so strange on such a lovely morning?
Then, as we turned a corner, out from the bushes came two kittens. "No big deal," I said to myself. Isaac and I encounter cats all the time, and they always run away from him. I gripped the leash more tightly and called him to come on.
He wouldn't budge. His tail sunk between his back legs.
The kittens drew their claws forward. Their teeth appeared. They hissed.
And the peacefulness of the morning suddenly changed. These were not like the other cats. Their behavior was unusual. Then I realized: Isaac and I had trespassed on the property of two wild kittens.
I tried every trick I knew. I stayed calm and firmly told Isaac to leave them. I got between Isaac and the cats, only to get tangled up in the leash. I told the cats to "scat," but their hissing only made me want to "scat." I pulled him along. The kittens followed. Isaac came out of his collar. I began to cry as I reattached it, afraid that my pup would run away from me. Once the leash was back on, I decided to let him get a little closer to them, and maybe he'd scare them off.
Wrong idea. Out came the kittens' teeth and claws again. Isaac was frozen. I also wondered what would happen if he bit at them. Fear of rabies and cat's scratches and feline homicide entered my mind. I pulled out the phone to call for help, shortened his leash, and began dragging him down the street. By the time help arrived, the kittens had followed us for half a mile. As we rode to the safety of home, I couldn't understand how an encounter with these two creatures, one-tenth the size of Isaac, could change the entire mood of the morning.
As I reflected on Isaac and the wild kittens, what I remember most vividly were those moments leading up to the kittens' entrance. Isaac had seen the kittens and sensed the unease long before I did. His slowing down was a sign that something was amiss, but I was not sensitive. I was so caught up in my own world, and how well things were going, that I missed a warning sign.
When life seems to be going well, it's easy for us to forget that there is evil in the world. It's easy for us to slip into sin & give in to temptation. Please understand, especially you cat lovers, that I am not calling cats evil. Those two kittens are part of God's creation, as are all animals. What is evil is how the devil uses circumstances to disturb our peace and steal our joy. The writer of Ephesians reminds us in chapter six that we struggle daily against "cosmic powers of this present darkness" and "spiritual forces of evil" (6:12). We don't need to be afraid of the temptations and disruptions that sneak up on us. But we do need to stay alert to the reality that we need God's protection at all times. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make wise decisions. Like Isaac, we need to pay attention to what's around us.
May we all remember, that no matter where we go, that "we dwell in the secret place of the Most High" (Psalm 91:1). Be not afraid, but rather go into the day with joy and peace that is untouched by the circumstances that life brings. And if you do find yourself rattled by wild kittens, may it be an opportunity to learn the powerful protection of a God who neither leaves us nor forsakes us.
all good things to each of you, Pastor Darian (and Isaac)
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.