We have a cat. Her name is Sunny Day. She is 12 years old in people years. As a kitten she almost didn’t make it for the long haul (scratching my little kids til’ they cried and tearing up furniture almost got her killed-by me). But as I am typing this, she is still here, trying to squirm her way on to my lap, even though it is occupied with my iPad. I love her to pieces and get sad when I think of her ever dying. This sadness surprises me, because until Sunny Day came along I never really had any pets. Don’t let that statement mislead you…I said we never had a “pet”, I did not say that we never had any “animals”. There is a big difference. We actually had a lot of animals over the years. The main difference between a pet and a mere animal, is location location location. Do they come INSIDE or do they have to stay OUTSIDE. Not only were the animals we accumulated never allowed inside (because someone CLAIMED they had allergies), they were also free. We never paid for any of the cats or dogs that lived in our backyard during my childhood.They were always given to us by a family member or friend or, and this was by far the most common means, my sister or brother rescued them from danger along the road or possibly at a grocery store (where they feared they might be “free” for someone’s dinner!). One might say that we had a very different approach to cats or dogs than, say, the powers that be in LA trying to pass a law that says you must not call them PETS. They are “animal companions.” I have a very distinct memory of losing one of our “animal companion” cats when we were moving from Montana to Oregon. We stopped at some friend’s house to say goodbye and when the car door opened she just jumped out of the car. We didn’t even try to catch her. I know it sounds horrible, but it’s hard to be too emotionally attached to someone/something that only peeks at you through the glass window now and then. Who never cuddles with you on the couch while you watch TV or while you sleep in your bed. Who you sometimes don’t even see for 2 or 3 days. Who you occasionally pet for 30 seconds and then ignore for a week or so. Who you set out food for, hoping that the raccoons and other neighborhood “outside” animals don’t eat it first.
This is why my attachment to my present pet is so unusual for me. She sleeps right on top of my body at night and if I don’t get up in time, she nibbles at my hair to get me out of bed. Last night, as I was laying in bed with Sunny Day draped across my belly, I had this thought about God (and please, nobody send me mail confronting me on implying that God is my “pet”. Just roll with it): I want God to be my INSIDE God, not my OUTSIDE God. When I had outside animals, they had names and we occasionally payed attention to them and once in awhile gave them some scraps off our dinner table or threw it an extra blanket if it was snowing. Whenever we called to our animals (“here kitty kitty kitty…”), from the warmth or cool of our home, they always came running. As if THIS would be the time we were going to let them in. When I treat God like an “Outside” pet, it is also hard to get attached to him. To feel emotionally engaged with him or make him a part of my everyday, simple life is nearly impossible. There may even be times where I think God has wandered away from home or found himself a better owner, only to find that when I call for him, he comes running back as if he were just patiently waiting around the corner. He longs to come inside, but instead I shoo him away with my foot and slam the door before he can enter. If I just keep busy inside, alone, I won’t notice that he is sitting by the door in anticipation. God is a magnificent Being who holds the universe and all that is in it. And yet, He longs to be our INSIDE God. One who soothes, comforts, and relates to us intimately. He sent His son at Christmas and brought him home at Easter, just to make this point excruciatingly clear. If you have always had an “outside” relationship with God, maybe it’s time to reconsider approaching him with an intimacy that is more like having an “inside” God. Instead of shooing him away, bring him inside. Let Him be the type of “Companion” that can fill the empty distance between the two of you.