We have two cats, Tippy and Fox. They’re sisters, although they look nothing alike and are completely different in every way. Tippy is content to stay inside the confines of our house and the back screened-in porch, and Fox is an escape artist. All she wants to do is go outside.
I’ve explained to her countless times that it’s not safe for her, that she’s little and a hawk could easily swoop down, pick her up and carry her away to be its dinner. But she ignores my warnings, even when I shake my finger at her.
So now, if my husband or I want to go out the front door, we have to put her in the bathroom until we come back inside. If we go out for the day, we put treats down at the far end of the house and run out the front door while she’s eating them.
Last Friday night, when the pizza guy delivered our pizza, we forgot about Fox for a nanosecond, long enough for her to race out into the dark and deep into the neighbor’s bushes. She escaped again this morning — it was my fault. She was eating her breakfast in the kitchen, which is next to the front door, and I thought I could sneak out to the dryer in the garage.
She’s better at sneaking out than I am — I didn’t even see her go out. When I came back inside and I couldn’t find her, Tippy looked at me as if to say, “She did it again.”
Today is the day that the lawn guys are out with their lawnmowers and all I could think about was, “Oh, no! What if they accidentally mow her down?” So, once again I went out looking for her, shaking a bag of treats. But she wasn’t in her usual place, the neighbor’s bushes. Instead, I found her, all cute and curious, around the corner with two ladies who were out walking their dogs.
Even though she objected, I once again picked her up and brought her home where she meowed and told me how much she really, really wanted to go back out and play with the dogs and that she’s not afraid of lawnmowers or swooping hawks. Then she climbed into her basket that’s a bit too small but it’s her favorite spot, and took a nap.
And I thought about Jesus and how he goes after his wayward lambs, how he’s the Good Shepherd, and even if he has 99 like Tippy who stay inside the safe boundaries, he doesn’t love them more than the one that keeps running away or love the runaway less.
As Jesus told the story about the lost sheep, he said, “And when the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!’” (Luke 15:4-6).
Jesus never says, “I’ve had it with you! That’s it. You’re not mine anymore.”
He won’t ever not go after the one. Every single time, Jesus goes after the one. Every. Time.
I also thought about boundaries, about rules and commandments and laws, about how we naturally don’t like them because we want to do what we want to do.
But it’s love that says no. Love says, ‘thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.”
Love says, “This far and no farther.”
It’s love that also says, “But if you do, if you stray, if you lose your way, there might be discipline, there may be consequences, but you will still always, always, always and forever be mine.”