Exactly three weeks ago was the night we (or I, rather) lost Storm. She crawled out the window I accidentally left open overnight—a window without a screen. Way to go, Victoria, I thought. The next few days were filled with nothing but searching. I didn’t go to bed on time. I neglected all chores and healthy eating habits. My mind was filled with one thing and one thing only: finding Storm.
Simultaneously, these past three Sundays were titled “The One Worth Finding” at our church. Stories of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son were told, analyzed and reflected on. Maybe I was just searching for some kind of meaning throughout all this, but I couldn’t help but think God was trying to teach me a lesson through these parables and the searching for Storm. Turns out, there were multiple lessons to be learned.
The week before Storm ran away, I mentioned to Austin how she brings me joy in loneliness. When I am by myself in the house, I love when she cuddles up, gives a sweet meow, and licks my face. It isn’t a bad thing to enjoy such a sweet animal, however, when I felt alone, rather than running to the Father, I embraced Storm. Rather than spending time with Him, I picked up the kitten, sat her next to me and turned on Netflix to remedy my feelings. Interestingly enough, I later found out my sister said a similar thing about Storm. Maybe God took her away so that we no longer had any one or any thing to run to in our loneliness. We needed to learn to run to Him.
“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and look for the one who wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14
This verse resonated with me throughout our treks in the woods, through neighbor’s backyards, and walking around the streets at midnight. I had lost sleep, skipped meals, and counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs and arms from the ceaseless searching. I was afraid she was going to be found wounded, starving, or the most horrific, dead. I hoped to see her sitting at our back sliding-glass door so that we could celebrate her return, but it did not happen. Is this a small sample of what God feels like when one of His children wanders from Him? Does he pull out all the stops, constantly pursing until the lost child is found?
Recently, I’ve also been feeling a bit convicted about my relationship with my sister. She doesn’t know this (well, now she does), but I believe I haven’t been the best sister to her. This belief wasn’t attributed to any negative behaviors toward her, but it’s what I’ve lacked—a listening ear, someone to spend time with, and seeking ways to show love and serve her. We live under the same roof, yet have been miles apart. The most incredible part of all is that losing Storm was 100% my doing. My fault. Not for a second did my sister make me feel guilty or point blame. In fact, when she told people about Storm missing, she would say just that. She was missing. She got out. But nothing about it being her big sister’s carelessness. Losing Storm united us. We had a common goal. Our times spent creeping in the woods, laying trails of food back to the house, or coming up with the next “great plan” to catch Storm, brought us closer. Maybe God took Storm away so that in her absence, Jacqueline and I could learn to enjoy each other’s presence again.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Surrender. Surrender has always been hard for me. Is it really easy for anyone though? How do you hold onto hope, but yet still surrender? Storm is a cat for goodness sake. Some people don’t even like cats! In fact, if you’re not an animal person and are reading this, you probably think I’m a tad nutty for coming up with all this just because of a cat. Well, my challenge to you is to think of whatever it is that you hold so dear. What if God took it away? After all, all things are His and we are just stewards of it. Would you be able to come to a place of surrender? That’s what we had to do. By the end of the first week, we knew it was time to close our garage door. We spent countless hours searching for Storm that we started to neglect responsibilities and priorities. This may have been the hardest part of the experience—laying down a life we treasure so much in God’s hands. If He wanted to bring her back, He would. If He didn’t, He had His reasons and we can treasure our memories with her, but we had to come to a place of peace and trust in our Father. Maybe God took Storm away so that we could learn to trust Him in all circumstances. Maybe we needed to reevaluate the things we treasure most. Maybe I haven’t been treasuring my relationship with Him the way I most definitely should.
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
During the second and third week of Storm’s absence, we kept our blinds open. We carefully scanned the streets as we came and went from our home. We left a little can of food out just in case. While we surrendered the situation, we still kept hope as we went about our lives. We even caught a few sightings of her and so had our neighbors. What a relief to hear she was alive! Then it got me thinking again. In the parable of the lost son, the father awaits his son’s arrival. While the father still went about his life, he kept hope for his lost son. He even saw him “while he was still a long way off”. Did he keep his curtains drawn open? Did he glance out the window often, or look to the horizon whenever he was outside just in case? Is this a bit of what God feels towards us when we choose to stray? He actively waits for our return, not so that He may scold us for leaving, but so that He can wrap us in His everlasting love and rejoice over us. Maybe God took away Storm so that I may understand no matter how far I wander for Him, He will always, always be right there, awaiting my return with His unfailing love.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26
Around 9pm last night I saw Storm sitting in our driveway. In my eagerness, I opened the door a bit too violently and she ran off, scared from the noise. Stupid cat, I thought. We’re trying to bring you home! My sister had bought a crate earlier that day and we left food inside it hoping we could catch her. Then, 3am strolled around and I woke up. I sprung from my bed to check the crate—nothing. Frustrated, I made my way back to my bedroom. Before I fell asleep my sister came running into my bedroom “STORM IS BACK!! STORM IS HERE! I HAVE HER!” Impossible, I just checked the crate 3 minutes ago. Sure enough, battered, skinny, and with a scratch across her little nose, Storm was in our living room. 3 minutes. Storm was only caught in the crate for three minutes. She could have been in there all night until we awoke the next morning, but instead God chose to only allow her to be trapped for no longer than three minutes. How incredible is that? I asked my sister this morning. How incredible is it that we have a God that cares about little kittens who have strayed from their home? And as Matthew states, “Are you not much more valuable then they?” Think about how vast His love for us is.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10
Jacqueline immediately gave Storm a bath, combed lifeless fleas from her fur, and cut off the burrs entangled in her freshly cleaned coat. She finished Storm’s primping with a blow dry. Good as new. When we all awoke again this morning, we checked on her. She hasn’t stopped purring since. She gives little kisses on your nose. She shoves her face against yours to cuddle. My roommates, sister and I have already posted several pictures of her online and told our friends and family who were praying for this silly, little kitten. We are rejoicing her arrival home! So maybe, just maybe, God took Storm away so that He could bring her back. Maybe He wants you and I to know that whether we are coming to Him for the first time at the realization of our need for Him, or for the umpteenth time due to our human nature causing us to stray and falter, He always rejoices over us. He always celebrates the return of His dear children. His mercy and grace is overflowing. His love never fails.