The old joke asks "Do you own a pet?" The person says "yes, I have a cat." The response is, "No, you do not own a pet because your cat owns you; no cat is owned by anyone." Of course, there are always exceptions, but the dog in our house acts like he actually likes us. He is attentive, he performs tricks to get attention, and he positively loves being scratched by the ears or played with (even in the snow). On the other hand, our cats run when we come home, ignore us except when they have something they want from us, and basically walk around the house like they tolerate our presence only out of necessity.
Last night one of our cats was on our bed three times meowing like she has never done before. I got up the first time thinking the house may just be on fire. But no, it was just a neighbor cat on the front porch who was tormenting my (I mean the) house cat with its freedom (though on a cold night I think he just might be wanting to be let inside). The second time I also got up and went out to find the same circumstance. The third time I did not get up. That darn cat does not even care about me except when it feels threatened. So let the darn cat suffer.
Then the other cat started that whining meow. Like the sap that I am, I figured this was like Lassie telling Dad that Timmy had fallen down the well... so I got up. This time it was simply not enough food in the bowl or water in the bowl to suit this hungry cat's taste.
Now I know that these cats presume to own, run, and rule the house. But the truth is that they are utterly dependent upon me and my wife. They require us to take care of the litter, fill and clean the food and water bowls, brush the fur off (to prevent the horrible hacking up of a fur ball), and the obligatory trips to the vet (you don't even want to know how they embarrass us with their behavior when we go to the vets).
It struck me in the wee hours of the morning, while trying to get back to sleep after their incessant whining meows, that we sinners are a lot like house cats. We walk the earth thinking we are the giants when we are subject to weather and weeds and water shortage. We use the earth's resources only to find that our usage causes pollution and other problems. We work as if work were what we were here for (worshiping our work), we take play so seriously that we are more tired after vacations than before (working at play), and we treat the deity as if He were some imaginary Santa Claus who we invented to make us feel better about our self-indulgence (playing at worship).
We are like those cats in my house who presume much but their perception is a lie. They do not rule and they refuse to serve and they are seldom affectionate, so they are pretty much useless. It is my benevolence that keeps them alive -- like God's benevolence toward us, His fallen creation. We whine and moan to God when we can't find our food, when we fear that life is not fair, when trouble threatens us, and when we have to go to Him for something we think we ought to be able to do for ourselves. We are just like my cats.
We use affection to get what we want -- like the people who run for the chapel to pray when trouble raises its ugly head only to live apart from God when that trouble no longer threatens. We use worship as a way to get what we want from God, we act like we love Him when we think that loving Him will get us something. But most of the time we live as though we were completely self-sufficient and in need of only occasional help in time of emergency.
I do not know why we keep those darn cats around -- it must be grace and mercy. I do not know why God determined to love us in spite of who we are -- it must be grace and mercy. We are useless to Him and worthless because of sin. We are marked with death and only His divine intervention keeps us alive.
We are like house cats, proud and arrogant in order to cover up our weaknesses and deficiencies and underneath it all our puffing and meowing, we are the most insecure of all. Like my cats in the photo, we think we are free, lords of all and servants of none, self-sufficient, accomplished, smart, etc. We sit looking out the door into our world thinking we are free when freedom is really on the other side of the door and completely inaccessible to us (apart from divine intervention). Only a gracious and benevolent person would keep a cat... Only a gracious and benevolent God would love a sinner like me...