Day 1 on Sabbatical: Today my family and I drove to Lake Tahoe where a friend was kind enough to let us use his cabin. After much personal debate, I decided that it was going to be too cold for me to ride my road bike up here knowing full well, that by the time I get here, I’m going to regret leaving it behind. It’s beautiful up here. Sunny, cool, but perfect biking weather. I’m already regretting leaving her behind. Perhaps the shops around here are already starting to rent out bikes for spring.
Tonight I spent some time reflecting on pastoral ministry and I had a funny thought: I’m the crazy cat lady.
As a pastor it’s a great honor to work with people who walk through our church doors with needs. While it takes a little triage and can get messy, we try to do what we can to help people from calling landlords negotiating rent costs to getting groceries. It’s not always fun or pretty, but to me, it is a reminder that we all live in “funk” and often I learn a lot about myself and others.
A while back I got a call for assistance from a young woman who was living in her car looking for a place to stay and to get some groceries. She lost her housing when her boyfriend passed away and was now living in her car. Her story was heart wrenching, but I was optimistic because as a single woman there happens to be more options in our county. I told her that I was going to make phone calls and set something up for her, but then she stopped me and said, “before you do…. you see, the thing is, I have a cat.”
What? I didn’t respond, but it was pretty hard for me to mask the shock. In my head I wanted to give her a simple solution, “just drop it off at the local roach coach, they’ll know what to do with it”, but that could be perceived as insensitive, so I kept it to myself.
She went on, “I’m really attached to this cat and I don’t want to live anywhere without it.”
I’m still trying to scrape my jaw off the floor at this point because the first thing that you should know about me is, I’m a “fixer”. I see a hole, and I want to fix it in the quickest way possible. It was hard for me to not pull a John Madden grabbing a white board to draw out her situation and start circling stuff, so I asked, “is there anyone that can take care of the cat for you?”
“No.” she said.
“Well… I can do what I can.” I said as I asked her to wait while I made some phone calls.
Each time the case workers would respond on the other line, “Cat, you said?”
I’m thinking to myself, “Yes. Cat. You don’t understand, she’s attached to the cat.” At this point I can only imagine what the other people in the office are hearing from me on this one-sided conversation, “yes ma’am… I understand… I’ve tried that… yes. a cat…”
It was a little discouraging to hear, “well, we have space, but we can’t take the cat.” I came back to her with a “come to Jesus” speech in hand. No luck. The best I could do at this point was to get her some money for gas and a voucher to buy some groceries. The situation broke my heart and frustrated me. That night I came home to tell my wife a story about the cat lady.
I think what makes me the most sad about this story, I think, is that it reveals something about myself. Sometimes I know the right thing to do. I might know how to get there. I know the cost of getting there. I know the brighter future awaiting me on the other side, but often times something holds me back. The truth is I always have a cat I’m attached to and can’t fathom living without it. The more that I thought about this weird interaction, I began to wonder if we all have a cat that holds us back from doing what we know is right.
I think the cat is different for everyone, but it’s often the very thing that is the hardest to give up in order for us to see some real life change. It sounds ridiculous to everyone else hearing it, but for us, we can’t fathom living without it. We try to walk around life hoping to take the cat with us. We might know what is best for us, but for whatever reason we just can’t give up the cat. When it’s all said and done, we are all crazy cat ladies.