Mister Bear is my love kitty – a bundle of endless snuggles, purrs and rubs, all connected to a wet nose. He’s not particular about how he lays during the snuggle sessions, so long as I’m snuggling with him as attentively as he’s snuggling with me. Forward, backward, sideways, tummy up, tummy down, it really doesn’t matter. I may scratch his ears, stroke his chin, massage his paws, pet him anywhere I wish, with one inviolable exception. I am not allowed, under any circumstances, to touch his tummy.
While trying to enjoy a recent, difficult soccer match, I had the pleasure of Mister Bear planting himself firmly beside me, on his back, with all four legs gently wrapped around my right arm, purr motor fully engaged, and his face nestled into the palm of my hand – a perfect picture of peace and serenity. I should have known better. Okay, I did know better. Don’t press the red button! Don’t stick a fork into the wall socket. Don’t touch Mister Bear’s tummy. These are the basic rules of a happy and healthy life. I knew this, but I couldn’t help myself.
As the abysmal soccer match continued, my fingers began to stroke Mister Bear’s chin, slowly, almost imperceptibly working my way down to his neck with a gentle, caressing massage. The purring continued, but warning messages were already making their way to Mister Bear’s defensive systems. But perhaps this time it would be different. Maybe this evening Mister Bear would actually enjoy a good tummy rub.
My rebellious stupidity continued, slowly moving my way down the furry neck until I crossed the arbitrary line – the breastbone. Bammo!! Eyes wide open, and teeth clamped ever so gently onto the fleshy part of my hand, Mister Bear grabbed my wrist with his front legs, grasping it with every fiber of strength he could muster, while his back legs (claws fully extended) kicked at my forearm like a jackrabbit being chased by a starving coyote. Following the crisis, I counted twenty six distinct wounds on the soft underbelly of my tender right forearm.
Each time this drama plays out, Alean rolls her eyes and wags her head as if to say, “Well? What did you expect?” She’s absolutely correct, that I have no reason to presuppose any outcome other than the one I get every time we perform this dance. I’ve lost count of the number of times Mister Bear and I have played the game, but one thing is certain. It ends the same every time.
How illustrative of our human condition. In our rebellion, knowing full well that it is not going to go well for us, we march boldly into sin and act incredulous when our arms end up shredded. Adam and Eve do the one thing God directed them not to do, wind up cut off from God, frightened, and with a heightened sensitivity to human nudity. David takes a roll in the hay with his neighbor’s wife, impregnates her, and kills her husband in an absurd effort to cover his tracks. The Israelites refuse to follow God’s explicit instructions to simply “take the land,” and end up walking in circles for forty years. Cain kills his brother in a fit of jealousy and then has the audacity to lie to God about it. What exactly were each of you expecting to happen?
It’s easy to pick on Biblical examples. They are the low-hanging fruit that allows us to keep a comfortable distance from self-examination. Looking in the mirror, however, we come face to face with the uncomfortable reality that we are no different than these non-stellar examples in human history. We habitually rub the cat’s tummy, and the cat shreds our lives.
The blessing we find, despite that, is that our God of love pursues us. He pursued Adam and Eve in the garden. He pursued David through Nathan. He pursued the Israelites through a long series of prophets. He pursued Cain, and protected him from harm with His mark. He pursues us through the blood of Jesus, and washes us clean, stain free. Though God owes us nothing, He pursues us with everything. He is the unashamed father running down the road to embrace his wayward son. He is the God who forgives the woman caught in adultery before she can even voice her shame. He is the king who throws lavish banquets for societal refuse. Fear not, forgiven child of God. You are deeply loved, and pursued.
Victoriously in Christ!