By Pastor Kevin Van Wyk
I am pretty sure Slick, our remaining cat from the 14 we’ve had over the past year and half, speaks. Now before you think we are running some neglectful cat-mill out of the parsonage, the first 2 were hit by cars, 6 from the first litter were given to good homes, and 5 from the second litter died at birth. Slick remains the lone survivor, so please drive careful as you come to church.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure she communicates. I ask, “Do you want water?” It can sound a lot like “yeows”. If that’s not convincing, Elyssa and I recently learned that when a cat rolls on to its back, it is not saying “rub my belly” like dogs, but “play with me.” They want a fellow cat or person to attack and play rough, so that’s why she always digs her claws into my feet and then bites my toes.
One distinct message Slick sends is don’t mess with me. If there is any sudden movement from creatures larger than her, she jumps into a defensive mode, with her back arched, tail up, and eye on the action. Message: “Don’t hurt me, I’ll fight back.”
Every so often, I see this response in humans. Well, they don’t arch their back, but they are anxious about something. Their feathers have been ruffled, and their body language says, “Don’t mess with me.” Folded arms, a waving finger, hands on hips, feet facing directly at you, and direct eye contact all say, “You’ve got me upset.”
I imagine this happens at a few Christmas dinners too. Most of us have learned to be very even keeled, but when it comes to family that becomes quite difficult. Generally, we can’t help it. Something happened, and we respond. The challenge is then whether the anxiety will be defused or escalated.
Paul tells us “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18NLT) Easy to say, not so easy to do.
I encourage you this Christmas to take a lesson from Slick and Paul: work toward peace and defuse tension. Before you jump into defense mode (arched back), take a long, deep breath. Then respond with kindness and compassion. If the other party really wants to be combative, calmly offer to talk about things later because you would like to reserve today for compassion and peace. Maybe you can ask for forgiveness right then, but true peace and reconciliation will take a bit more discussion.
My prayer is that you have a joyful and peace-filled Christmas season.