By Christine Venzon
If cats have nine lives, I figure Eunice Louise has maybe five more left.
We first met on U.S. Highway 190 in Louisiana. I was heading for the town of Eunice with my mom and a friend, who were visiting me from Illinois. She was crawling out of the median in a construction zone—a tiny fistful of kitten, heading for a tyrannosaur-toothed backhoe and a truck pouring hot gravel.
I doubled back, pulled off on the road, and carried her to the safety of the car, swaddled in a towel. While we debated what to do with the little waif, she complicated matters by slipping from the towel and into my dashboard, and she was not coming out. We found a car dealer, where skilled mechanics performed an emergency “kittenectomy” (cost: $80), upon which she bit one of her rescuers. He forgave her, though, and even gave her the name Eunice Louise.
Saving Her from Herself
Back at the house, we decided Eunice would go home with Mom—once she came out from under the water heater where she’d taken refuge (a space no bigger than a pizza box). Our patience exhausted, we finally extricated her by sweeping her out with the angled end of a curtain rod. (I’ve heard shepherds use the hook of their staff for a similar purpose.)
Mom called when they got back home. Eunice had found a tear in the bottom of the box springs in the motel room where they’d stopped overnight and squeezed between the coils. Fortunately they caught her before she was completely embedded.
Four times Eunice tempted fate. Four times someone watching over her saved her from herself. Four lives down, five to go.
You Are Here
With respect to felines everywhere, Eunice sounds suspiciously human. Like her we let desire, fear, a misguided sense of independence, and plain stubbornness lead us into one tight spot after another. We let pride lead us to lash out at those who come to our rescue. We reject their help and even burrow farther out of reach.
Not coincidentally, these holes we dig ourselves into sink us deeper spiritually too. Choices and actions that seem like a good idea at the time turn us away from God and each other. Like a maze, it’s easy to get in, harder to get out.
I speak from experience. After high school, the thought of college terrified me. I was sure I would wash out. I moved halfway across the country and took long-houred, low-paying jobs that made me happy at first but led nowhere. I moved three times in 15 months and never really felt I belonged. Meanwhile family and friends back home prayed and worried. Was I eating enough? Was I making friends? Was I still going to church?
After a few years, broke, unemployed, and lonely, I finally admitted I was wrong. I thought I knew what I was doing. Instead I’d been taking wrong turns all the time and failed or refused to see it until I was hopelessly stuck. I moved back to my parents’ house to enroll in college and pursue my first love: writing.
What did I find there? People who loved and cared about me, who supported my goals and helped me land my first writing job, which led to something—a career.
Rescue and Recovery
Some holes aren’t so easy to climb out of. Infidelity, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse—these are like black holes that drag in everything and everyone around. They devastate health, ruin careers, and, worst of all, destroy relationships. Friends and family are so hurt and disappointed, they stop giving second—and third and fourth—chances.
That happened to a family at church. After yet another unsuccessful stint in rehab, the son showed up at their house one night, falling-down drunk. His parents called the police, who called the ambulance that took him to the hospital. They did not go with him. For years they’d struggled to help him stay clean. They’d lived with anxiety and guilt, wondering what they’d done that God should punish them so. Their marriage and health verged on collapse. They tried, but they were only human. It was a matter of survival.
Someday, we might be—or may have been or are now—that son, in a pit so deep that even our dearest, strongest friends and family can’t pull us out. With the psalmist we cry, “My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Psalm 31:9, 10).
Friends in High (and Not-So-High) Places
All the king’s horses and all his men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again—but we have someone greater, someone who can shoulder the load of our suffering, someone who has suffered himself. We have our God, who cares for his creatures with an eternal, irrevocable love. When Jesus lamented, “I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37), he was talking about us as much as the people of ancient Israel.
God doesn’t turn his back on us, his willful, reckless children, even when we turn away from him. On the contrary, he waits with endless patience. He waits for us to come out of hiding, to come to our senses, to realize we can’t free ourselves by our own devices. If we need coaxing, he is there—whether we like it or not. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (v. 7) asked the author of Psalm 139. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (vv. 9, 10).
Sometimes coaxing involves letting us experience—some would say suffer—the natural consequences of our actions. Outside of miracles, God doesn’t suspend the laws of creation, which he designed for our own good. Rather he works through the ministry of those he has given us, our fellow creatures here on earth. From family and friends to professional counselors and doctors, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who take us back and help us rebuild the bridges we’ve burnt, when we’re ready to make ourselves fit company again.
An Inside Job
Eunice Louise’s ordeals ended when she was safe in our arms. Our salvation has an added, spiritual dimension. Our outward healing, whether of our physical health or our relationships, goes hand-in-hand with inner healing—the forgiveness of the sins that we’ve incurred. Again, forgiveness must include the people we’ve harmed. But it must start—and ultimately end—with God. It’s his law we’ve broken, before and beyond any rule imposed by society. People may or may not forgive—we’re only human, after all. God always does. And God alone forgives and forgets. It’s as if we turn back the clock, as though the offense never happened, for all time: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). The healing is perfect because his love is perfect.
And Eunice Louise? She’s outgrown her penchant for dark and dusty spaces. That last time—she got stuck under the microwave cart—drove home God’s words to my heart: “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).
Christine Venzon is a freelance writer in Peoria, Illinois.