This report may be hard for you if you’re a cat lover—and by that, I mean the kind of cat lover that feels compelled to take your relationship to the ‘next level’, like maybe having those little cat-paw stickers on your car, so that people who don’t even know you are informed of your devotion to one or more of the creatures. If that’s you, brace yourself, because I’m about to be the bearer of bad news. It seems that a group of scientists in the UK have announced that in spite of your uninhibited affection, your furry little love object really doesn’t love you back. After a careful and scientific exploration into the netherworld of cat to human attachments, they concluded that for the most part, your cat doesn’t care a flip about you emotionally. Their ground-breaking work in this vital and potentially controversial realm reveals that your cat is pretty much OK, regardless of whether you’re there or not. Your proximity, they concluded, is of little concern for your cat unless it wants something from you, and if he or she appears to act weird when you leave, it’s all about whether it has what it wants or not, unless, I guess, you just happen to have a weird cat. Any frustration it displays when you leave it alone is not because it misses you, or cares where you went, or whether you’re ever coming back (and just as an aside, I have no idea how they could tell if a cat is frustrated. Maybe it struts about and spews crude, sarcastic, and socially unacceptable epithets in cat language). In any case, the researchers depicted cats in general, which probably includes yours, as being aloof, arrogant, and narcissistic enough to go into politics—mostly as liberal Democrats, I would imagine.
This is shocking news for some of you to hear, I’m sure. You may have thought your cute little kitty (or fat lumpy kitty, as the case may be) was just devastated with grief every time you had to leave it unattended. You worried about it even though you left enough water and food to qualify the cat for membership in a survivalist group. Never mind, either, that you had created a feline utopia, and blessed it with enough toys, gadgets, whirly things, and stuffed animals to open its own store — you still worried. You envisioned it being sick with anxiety whenever you had to leave, because you thought that all the adorable little fuzz ball really ever wanted was you. Sorry, the Brits have determined that your four-legged heart-throb is just another self-absorbed diva, and that the purring is definitely not about you. Any real affection your cat has for you, they affirm, exists only in the confines of your own fertile imagination. It is reassuring, I suppose, to know that cats are not particularly bothered by your expressions of love, so long as it suits their mood at any given moment.
OK, now that I have single-handedly mobilized a small army of offended cat lovers, I beg forgiveness for having a little fun with you. Please don’t send me nasty tweets with pictures of your cat holding an AR-15 pointed at me. I’m just humbly passing along information that may be helpful for your emotional wellbeing. What goes on between you and your cat is between the two of you, of course, but I do have a point I’d like to make.
The intriguing and relevant thing to me is the criteria they used to indicate whether or not there was any genuine emotional attachment between the cat and its caretaker. They based their conclusions on focused observations of the cat’s behavior when the caretaker was taken away. Their premise being that if a significant connection existed, there would be observable indications of distress directly associated with the caretaker’s absence. If the cat had everything it might need or want, yet exhibited behaviors that indicated anxiety or frustration when the caretaker left, it was interpreted as evidence of an emotional connection. A real emotional connection, love, if you will, would pre-suppose a desire for proximity, and some observable impact would result if that proximity was threatened or removed. If the availability of the supposed love object doesn’t seem to matter, then the love is either non-existent, or too insignificant to be worthy of concern.
I couldn’t help but think, “What if the ‘love’ we proclaim for Jesus Christ were to be tested using that same kind of criteria?” Suppose our affection for Him was ascertained and validated by observable indications of whether we’re bothered when He doesn’t seem close, or when His presence is removed. The researchers determined that the only reason the cat exhibited behaviors that looked like ‘love’ was to get something it wanted. If it was satisfied, then it had no apparent concern about the whereabouts of its caretaker. If it needed or wanted something, attention, food, etc., from its caretaker, then it would exhibit behaviors designed to elicit that response—how disturbingly like us.
The question that emerges is whether the focus of our relationship with God is primarily on Him, or only on what we can get from Him. It’s a tough question to ask ourselves, but are we drawn to Jesus Christ because of who He is, and because of what it’s like to be near Him, or simply because He has something we want? Are we even aware enough to notice if He’s not to be found among our well-stocked cupboards, comfortable furniture, and entertainment devices? The thing He wants most from us, love for Him, characterized by a compelling desire for His presence, seems so often to be the thing we are most hesitant to offer.
Looking at my wife across the room, it occurs to me that what I feel for her has nothing to do with anything in particular that I want to get from her, and if she were to leave, the food and trinkets in our house could never fill the awful sense of emptiness left in her absence. It bothers me when she isn’t around. Jesus said to His own,
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you…” (John 15:9a NKJV); and He later prayed, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am…” (John 17:24a NKJV).
The Brits got it right; real love wants Him close—simple isn’t it?
© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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