We recently had to shave our cat. She is a long haired Maine Coon and had spent the majority of the last few months preferring to be outside lounging on the front porch and greeting anyone who might venture into her space. Sarah kitty is very social but equally independent so I didn’t think anything of just letting her enjoy her routine of going in and out. In and out. In and out. You get it. Then one day I decided to scoop her up and give her a little extra attention despite her protests to be handled. What I discovered grieved me.
From a distance Sarah appeared a decent sized, healthy, soft and furry creature. But as I held her in my arms, my hands brushed over large masses of clumped fur and all that hair was camouflaging her tiny, frail frame. She was rough to the touch, her skin irritated as the thick masses of fur pulled relentlessly and caused much aggravation. I had no idea that underneath was all of this hidden damage and irritation.
Friends, it’s been a rough year, and if we are being really honest with ourselves many of us are probably much more like Sarah kitty than we would like to admit. From a distance and on the surface, we appear to be functioning well enough and seem like we are handling all of the changes and uncertainties in stride. But underneath it all is a tangled painful mass that we desperately try to ignore and hide. The constant changes in school and work schedules, isolation from friends and family, and fear of exposure to a sickness that seems to be unpredictable have taken their toll. Under the surface we are not OK.
More than ever the encouragement from Ephesians 4:2 is a reminder for us as we navigate interactions and relationships with those around us. The apostle Paul encourages us by saying “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another love.” Just as our Sarah kitty looked fine from a distance, we may be perceiving that those around us are doing fine. We are not able to see one another’s wounds. When applied, Paul’s instructions for how we relate to one another can bring healing and life to those around us. Our humility and gentleness with each other allow space for vulnerability and a safe place for our wounds to be exposed. Patience and bearing with one another is needed when we fail each other’s expectations and desperately need grace and to know that we are still loved.
We need each other! Our Sarah kitty was not able to remove those matted clumps on her own. It required several people, gentleness, time and persistence (and lots of treats) to free her from the hidden damage. Let’s allow Paul’s words to guide our interactions with those around us whether we are responding to their hidden struggles or
reacting out of our own.