The first time we saw him he was walking leisurely across our backyard. He paid little attention to Joan and me as we relaxed near the little fishpond. “He” was a beautiful big orange-and-white cat with long fur and a large, bushy tail. We soon discovered that he was a tomcat of Turkish Van heritage, and that his name was Tom.
We often observed his walks as we sat in the cool of the evenings. There he would go across the backyard and the garden plot, through the little patch of woods, and on toward our neighbor’s house. We tried calling to him as he passed by, but he would stop only for a moment in midstride, turn his head to look at us, and amble on to wherever he was going. He paid no attention to our dog and two cats, nor did they him, as if there was a certain peace agreement between them.
Early one afternoon I went to Joan’s sewing room in the basement and found Tom lying on one of Joan’s large sewing tables. Apparently he had made his way through Sheba’s dog door, helped himself to some of Sam and Suzie’s cat food, and stretched out for a nap.
I wanted to make friends with this big, beautiful cat, so I reached out to touch him. I made contact, all right, but not in the way I intended. Tom snarled wickedly and jumped at me, fastening his claws into my arm and his teeth into my hand. Then just as quickly he let go and darted out of the basement. It was not a very good start to what I hoped would be a beautiful friendship.
Apparently that episode did not discourage Tom, because before long I met him again under the same circumstances. He lay there quietly, just looking at me and wondering if I had learned my lesson not to touch him.
This time I was more cautious. I leaned against the nearby table while talking to him quietly. I reached out with the tip of my walking cane and lightly rubbed his back between his shoulders. He did not move, but squinted his eyes, as cats often do when pleased.
This happened several times during the next few days, with the same result. I decided to be a little bolder. So the next time, after rubbing his back for a bit with my cane, I reached over to touch him. But Tom was still not ready for that close of a friendship. Snarling like a wildcat, he grabbed my arm and hand again before he ran out of the basement.
Tom enjoyed our basement, continuing to rest on the sewing table after feasting on some of Sam and Suzie’s dinner. I gave him the same treatment with my cane, but kept my hands to myself.
One day something miraculous happened. I gave Tom his nuzzle with the cane and drew it back. Then, while leaning against the next table, I just looked at him. All at once he gathered himself up, leaped across the gap between our tables, and began rubbing against me as if we were longtime friends.
It wasn’t all roses from then on. I had to be careful about our associations on certain days, as he would lose his cool and go back to his old snarling meanness. But I didn’t give up.
It took a bit of time and patience, but Tom became my almost-constant companion, and his temperament softened. I believe Tom finally learned how to love when he finally recognized and responded to the affection shown him.
Tom is gone now, resting by the little fishpond. But that big orange-and-white cat taught me a great lesson.
In my experience with him I came to better understand God’s experience with me. I may have appeared likable and touchable on the outside, but that belied what was inside. Jesus loved me and showed me so with His actions. He did not give up when I snarled or even struck out at Him. He kept drawing me in with His love until I jumped across the gap between us to be His friend. Now He keeps me close, and I will be His forever.
“I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3, KJV).