HOW and what does God use to remind you of the fundamental principles we see in the Bible? In my life, God often uses people and animals to impact me with important life lessons—perhaps because I have a soft spot for them. God also knows that I enjoy a good laugh, especially when it’s on me. I believe that God personalizes His lessons to us.
Midnight chose me. In early autumn, 2000, I was returning home from a long walk in my neighborhood when I spotted a black cat. When I stopped, she stopped. When I continued, she continued. Then I realized that she was following me. Back in the UAE, I would have taken her home with me and let her live with my rather large colony of outdoor cats, and invited her to dine at my soup kitchen on the wall where I fed all my other stray cats. But I was in the US, and my mother didn’t care to add another pet to our household.
Soft and cuddly, I couldn’t abandon her. So we reached a compromise. The cat slept in the garage at night for a few months. During the day, she went outdoors. Early on, I gave her the name ‘Midnight’ and attached a nametag with our contact information onto her collar. Midnight enjoyed roaming the town and often wandered. Consequently, we received phone calls from good-hearted people all around town where Midnight showed up. We’d always go and pick her up.
Around Thanksgiving that year, I planned to return to the UAE, so I had to get Midnight fixed to avoid any unwanted kittens. If I took care of this, my dad agreed to keep her at our land in Fairview after I left. More than happy to do my part, I got her fixed a few weeks before leaving.
Midnight stayed close by as she recovered. We took her to the land to live a few days before I returned to the UAE. I felt so happy to know that she would have all that land to roam, and be safe and cared for.
The following spring, I learned the cat had given birth to six calico kittens! My father took her back to the vet and in the course of the conversation, learned that the operating physician had been taking medication, and after he opened her up, he forgot to do the surgery. Instead, he simply closed her back up. The vet agreed to do the surgery, free-of-charge, once she was through weaning the kittens. Poor cat. She had to recover all over again.
But a lovely cat she was. She took a shine to my dad’s mechanic, who did much of his work seated in his wheelchair. He was permanently disabled in a car accident some years back, but retained the use of his upper body. The arrangement worked well for my dad and the mechanic, and now the cat. She often sat in his lap or nearby as he worked.
Over the years, she earned her keep by being a good mouser, and giving my dad a few good laughs. She bossed the dog around by batting him in the nose, her sharp claws unsheathed. Dad’s big bear of a Lab gave her a wide berth after that. Dad had a no-fuss, no-frills policy toward her. He just opened the can of cat food once or twice a day, and set it down in front of her. She ate directly from the can. He cut a little doorway in the barn door for her to come and go as she pleased. What more could a cat ask for?
Of course, Midnight became territorial. She fought other cats off and sent them their walking papers. A little over a year ago, she was injured in a fight. My brother, who now runs the business, sent her home to me.
I took her to the vet, who lamented that I had not kept her rabies shot up-to-date. Since we didn’t see what attacked her, we had to treat it as a positive rabies case. Texas Protocol allowed the vet to minister rabies shots only if I followed up on all the shots and kept her quarantined for three months.
My mother did not like this at all. I promised after the three-month quarantine that I would take her back to the land. But my younger brother didn’t want her back. Both my mother and my brother had made up their minds, which put me smack in the middle of a bad situation. Here I had this sweet, purring kitty clamoring to come into the house.
Though her presence created a problem, I kept her in my garage. This winter, I allowed her to come in on cold nights. She learned: APARTMENT = HEAT. After that, she begged to come in. I knew the rule, but I gave in to her meows.
I knew my mom wouldn’t budge on her stance but I couldn’t disappoint the cat either. So I allowed her into my apartment late at night and put her out early in the morning.
I knew it was wrong to keep doing this but I justified it by saying, “As long as she is out by morning, it’ll be okay.”
Recently, Midnight got an eye infection so Erin, my friend’s daughter, came to help me put in the eye drops each day. Erin took her into my office to do this. As soon as she finished, the cat would flee—usually to my bedroom where she hid under my bed. I got lazy about putting her back in the garage.
As she grew more confident in her surroundings, I grew more accepting of her being here. Midnight followed me around my place. If I went down to Mom’s house, the cat chastised me with loud, accusing meows when I returned. I quickly shut the door. “Shhh! Someone will hear you,” I whispered.
But she got bolder. One morning, I went down to fix the fire. Midnight padded over to my bedroom door and opened it with her paw. She found me in the living room, and began to harangue me with loud, plaintive meows.
“Your cat is in the living room,” Mom commented, keeping her tone neutral.
“Midnight, how did you get in here? You should be in the garage!” I feigned surprise, picked her up and carried her back to the garage. “Don’t get me in trouble again!”
The next morning, she again poked open the door with her paw and wandered out to the top of the stairs. “Your cat is on the stairs. She sounds like a baby crying,” Mom said.
“Midnight,” I whispered again, “Stop announcing yourself.” It was getting harder to keep her a secret.
One night, Mom came up to my apartment. I was talking on my cell phone with a friend. “Do you need something?” I asked.
She placed some dollar bills on my dresser. Out the corner of her eye, she spied Midnight directly under the light. “I need you to get the cat out of your room!”
“What cat?” I asked, completely forgetting that Midnight lay right beside me, curled up next to my pillow.
“Right there.” She pointed to the cat.
“Just a minute,” I told my friend. “I have to do something.”
I put the cat back down in the garage, sheep-faced. You would have thought I learned my lesson. Not so. As soon as my mom left and I felt it was safe, I let the cat back up. She spent a restful night by my pillow again.
That’s when God decided to have a heart-to-heart with me. At first I giggled when I thought about how Midnight kept appearing at the wrong times. But soon God showed me the progression of events from His eyes. I was trying to keep the peace, and make myself feel better in the process. The funniest part was how I really had forgotten that Midnight was in the room, whereas before I’d just pretended not to know. God planted in my heart the danger of allowing myself to manipulate events so that my words could not be trusted.
I’d really like to blame Midnight, but God won’t let me pass the buck–er, the cat!