Tiger is about 13 years old, having been a birthday present for Jordan on her sixth birthday. Neil did not want another cat back then (we had two other cats and two dogs at the time!) but I was determined to make my little girl’s birthday dream come true. Despite my husband’s strong suggestion for some other present, I sat at the SPCA for the better part of a morning, looking into little eyes, watching the kittens interact with each other and throwing paper towel wads for them to chase before I finally decided Tiger was the one. As a kitten he was beautiful: perfectly proportioned, soft velvety fur, big green eyes and a personality that was cuddly and playful.
Fast forward 13 years later. As a grown cat, Tiger seems distrustful and guarded. He hates poor Buddy the dog, who would love nothing more than to be playmates. He tolerates Kitty Girl, our other cat, mostly by pretending she doesn’t exist. I have often imagined him complaining to himself about the idiotic pets with whom he is forced to reside, and the obnoxious humans who are not much better.
No matter what I am doing, Tiger watches. He watches from the porch as I walk the dog, sometimes even trailing behind at a safe distance. He watches from the counter when I eat my meals. He sits on the living room floor and watches me as I read. He even follows me into the bathroom and watches me there. All that watching seems sinister and a little intimidating.
Last week, while Gina was visiting, she studied Tiger and pointed out, “Look how much Tiger trusts you; he blinks when he looks at you.” He does blink at me sometimes, but he stares a lot, too. Figuring this was a fictional tidbit she read on the internet, I considered her comment for a moment and then dismissed it.
Later that night, I woke up on Neil’s side of the bed, with Tiger lying against me and his paw on my throat. It scared me for a second when I thought about those sharp claws, but then I realized he was purring loudly and sleeping peacefully. His paw was more like a gentle embrace than a threatening grasp. I recalled Gina’s comment and started thinking that his sinister personality might simply be the one I assigned to him. He might not hate us at all; he might just be watching closely to be sure we are all safe. Maybe over the years I misjudged the poor guy because of his subdued behavior and outward appearance.
Don’t we all do that – not only to pets but to people, too? The neighbor who always stands straight and tall is arrogant and the woman who stares past me in the grocery store as she hurries by is snobbish. The stern faced instructor at the gym must be mean. And don’t we hate when people do that to us? Just because I’m quiet doesn’t mean I’m smug. Just because I enjoy solitude doesn’t mean I don’t like other people.
It’s frustrating being misunderstood, and it can be hurtful. Luckily, there is One who never misjudges or gets the wrong impression.
God knows who I am and everything about me. Best of all, no matter what He sees on the outside, and despite all the imperfections and human foibles He knows are on the inside, He loves me. He asks me to try to love others in the same way. Maybe that woman at the grocery store is in a hurry to get home to a sick child, and the neighbor who stands straight and tall is trying to improve her back pain.
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”
Tiger reminded me not to judge as man does, but rather to see others as God does. So tonight, I will not see Tiger watching me; I will see Tiger loving me.