Last Saturday I officially became a cat owner.
Zinnie is a petite dilute calico, full of chirps and an appetite for wet food. She also likes to snuggle (on her own terms, in the true feline fashion). I have been wanting a cat of my own for years and, with my recent move to Atlanta, I found myself delving into the adoption process after looking cats up one random evening, and did not stop until I found "the one." After seeing cat after cat and receiving numerous hints and words of wisdom (the cat will choose you, you will just know, etc.), I was torn between emotional exhaustion, and anticipatory endurance and hope that I would, indeed, find the one. And throughout the process I had plenty of moments of going 'macro,' as a friend describes it. There were so many kitties, and yet I could only help one. The situation is therefore hopeless! And the only reason I am feeling bad right now, I thought in that time, is because I am actively seeking a cat, and reading all of these sad stories. My emotions and committment are but fur deep, and I am a terrible human dooming these cats to a lonely life.And then I would think, they're only cats. But there is a wise man who is claimed to have said,
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
And I therefore thank all of the caretakers of those suffering abuse at the hand of man. So many volunteers at these shelters have a conscience so sensitive to suffering, gracious with those of us who are just "visiting" their cause, and hopeful that their efforts are creating a better world. And to live in a society that fosters such individuals is an honor.
The moments of despair for these cats also brought about a few more lessons.
1. There is more pain in this world than I can bear.
For all of the cats and dogs that are rescued from abuse and neglect, there are countless more, and will be many more in the future. Let alone humans that face injustice, sickness, slavery, abuse, and other atrocities. In America, it is easy to divorce oneself from almost all of these problems. Hospitals for sick people, fighting overseas, secretive slave trades (within our own borders), and a stigma attached to abuse survivors. Besides this, it is confusing to think of what one may do to 'make a dent' in such troubles - their roots run deep and are sometimes the result of generations of corruption or industrialized crime.
The despair we may be apt to feel comes to light in no small way with a recent film I watched, Machine Gun Preacher. I am still researching the true story and man it is base upon, Sam Childers, and his ministry, so I am not necessarily supporting nor condoning his cause and methods. BUT, the film vividly portrays a taste of the atrocities caused by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. Children forced to kill, a woman whose lips were cut off, a child killed by a land mine, and a children's home under gunfire, amongst others. This is enough to lose hope in humanity and throw to the wind all of the moral progress we may claim to have made as the human race.
Are you depressed yet? We have every reason to be, when considering the state of the world. As it is said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I fully believe this, as a step in the cycle of awareness, action, and... redemption. Redemption. Praise the Lord Almighty, for His grace and mercy. I need more of this than I will ever know. So does the LRA, Sam Childers, animal abusers, yogis, Buddhists, housewives, businessmen, PhD students, hipsters, and YOU. From the perspective I am able to provide, a young professional white girl, even if one tries to live a moral life in our time and society, we will fall short. A certain verse comes to mind with this, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them" James 4.17.
We may love our neighbor, but endanger our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh by buying clothing manufactured through an 'affordable' company that skimps on safety precautions for workers. Or we may sacrifice all of our time and passions for a cause, while ignoring family responsibilities. There is an endless supply of mercy and grace the Lord provides those who call upon His name, and I am desperate for it.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved... through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9
Even while in the process of understanding God's grace for our own hearts and lives, I think it is difficult to see the many tragedies and hardships in the world and not be overwhelmed. But the hope we have to hold onto is from the same giver of our own mercy and grace - we are told
The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalm 145:9
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11.28-30
We may cast the worries of our own lives, as well as the very real and troubling burdens of the world upon the Lord. We are strengthened through Him to do His good work, which is playing our part in relieving these burdens, restoring justice, and healing the wounds, but our trust must first be within our Savior, for we cannot provide redemption on our own. We must do it through God, for God is love (I John 4.8) and "...if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing" (I Corinthians 13:2b). Through his grace and strength only may we realize all troubles are within His scope, and may he accomplish His purpose through us, for Jesus tells us,
“...'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12.9
2. A call to action.
If my Seattle church pastor, Richard Dahlstrom, has one thing to inscribe on our minds and hearts, it is the need to follow after God first and foremost in our lives before anything else can go His way. While I was going through the adoption search and process, I insisted to myself that I would make a plea for the orphaned children of our world as a result of my sorrow for these suffering and homeless animals. For while I sympathize for such creatures, as I believe we should, a child is infinitely more important and beloved than these, for he or she is created in God's image (Genesis 1.27).
So, here are some resources if you are looking for a way to help restore shalom to our earth and make an impact for the poor and hurting in our globalized community.
- World Vision. Ever since my sister and I visited Mexico years ago, we have been proud to sponsor a child through this organization. They mainly help children, domestically and internationally, and disaster relief.
- Samaritan's Purse (Operation Christmas Child). I have had the pleasure and privilege of helping one morning at a distribution center for Operation Christmas Child, to give me a slight indication of the millions of children who are touched by individual efforts around Christmas time. This ministry teaches children the Gospel message and, after their classes, they receive a shoebox filled with wonderful things packed by someone (mostly U.S. church-goers), to enjoy and have as their own. I should probably write more on this as my sister has gone on a trip with them, and my Mom is soon to embark on a new adventure with the organization!
- Compassion International. While I sponsor a child through World Vision, I know Compassion is a very well-respected and widespread ministry.
- TellAsia's Blue Haven Children's Home. It has been almost a year since my experience in India. Amongst many other lessons, stories, and insights I have received, I also gained a new appreciation for what it means to be 'brothers and sisters in Christ.' The pure love and joy in Jesus that I experienced within this Children's Home and its ministry team was an honor to learn from and be part of. The children at this home (hopefully soon to be the one I helped design), are available for sponsorship.