From my front row seat

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sorry, but some people need to feed pigs

This was the early Saturday morning routine that began in second grade and continued until I went off to college.

Without knocking, I would enter the front door of my piano teacher's very large, dark, historic Civil War home in downtown Franklin, Tennessee.  Immediately the ammonia smell of over thirty Siamese cats would take my breath away.  Past the massive, somewhat depressing tapestries on the walls and dark oversized furniture, I would make my way to the grand piano in the "pah-luh", take a seat, and begin playing.  Cats would wrap around my legs and sometimes crawl across the keyboard swishing their tails under my nose.

Eventually Miss Mary would appear dressed in a shirtwaist dress, stockings with pumps, typically wearing pearls around her neck with matching ear bobs.  Her snow-white hair was evenly divided into two buns, one over each ear, both carefully contained with white hairnets.  She would also have on a little too much rouge (yes, the real thing) and lipstick that wandered outside the wrinkled lines.

Picture I drew of Miss Mary years ago
Miss Mary would approach the piano clinking a dainty cup and saucer of strong instant coffee, and she would usually have biscuit crumbs in the whiskers on her chin.  Miss Mary had never married and lived alone the entire time I knew her - except for one crazy summer when she rented a room upstairs to a colorful girl who had a constant flow of "gentleman callers", which Miss Mary mistook as the sign of a popular young lady with lots of friends.  Right...

One Saturday morning there was a strange, new sound, much different from the usual meow of a Siamese.  It sounded like a baby crying, but I couldn't imagine anyone asking Miss Mary to babysit.  Finally, I asked her what was making that sound?

"It's my new cat!" she said.  "He wandered into the yard and I'm keeping him in the kitchen until he can adjust to his new home."  I really wanted to see this cat making such a strange sound so she agreed to let me peek through the door as long as I didn't let him escape.  The other thirty-something cats were clearly upset about this new family member and were darting around the house in a sort of fearful, chaotic frenzy.  I soon learned why.

Much to my horror, when I cracked open the door, there in the middle of her linoleum kitchen table stood an enormous wild bobcat!  It arched its back and showed its fangs when it saw me and I couldn't help but notice Miss Mary had somehow put a rhinestone collar on its neck.  The kitchen was completely destroyed as if a wild animal had been turned loose in there.  Oh yeah, that was exactly what had happened. 

Miss Mary's complete household had been turned upside down by her attempt to help this one animal that clearly didn't want help.

 I slammed the door shut.  "Miss Mary, that's a wild bobcat!"

"Oh no, he's just having a hard time adjusting to his new home.  He'll be fine in a few days."  She said this with a curious level of confidence.

All week I wondered how Miss Mary and the wild bobcat were getting along.  And for once I was excited to go to my lesson.

The door was unlocked as usual so I carefully stepped inside and walked to the piano, listening for any sign of the bobcat - or Miss Mary.  Nothing.  The only cats I saw were quietly cowering behind the furniture.  Was it possible the bobcat killed Miss Mary?  For a few minutes, I have to confess, I wondered if perhaps this could mean the end of my Saturday morning lessons?  But then, of course, I immediately felt guilty for even thinking it.

Finally Miss Mary appeared, not from the kitchen as usual, but from her bedroom, which I had never seen and was such a mystery.  She looked like she had been in a terrible wreck.  Her little white buns were hanging from their sockets, her pale thin-skinned arms were covered in deep red gashes, her silk brocade dress looked like she had slept in it, and she even had a black eye.

She reported that her new cat "never did adjust to his new home" and she had to let him go.  She had loved him, cared for him, fed him, showered him with gifts, and in the end, he didn't appreciate any of it.  She seemed completely bewildered.

So how does this story have anything to do with Blue Monarch?

Clearly the bobcat didn't belong in Miss Mary's house anyway, but her reaction to this bobcat is so similar to the many calls we get from folks who are desperately trying to help someone they love, someone who is struggling with addiction and poor life choices.

"Why does she keep doing this?  I pay her bills, I take care of her children, and I gave her a car...I've done everything for her!"  They love this family member so much they are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes - even if it jeopardizes the peace and safety of everyone else in the home.  They allow their homes to turn into complete and total chaos because in their minds, this sacrifice shows how much they love this person.  They insist on keeping the bobcat in the kitchen, despite the fact that the needs of the rest of the family - and probably even their own needs - are greatly suffering.

This is so, so hard to accept - but sometimes the best love one can show is to give that individual the freedom to fall.  Even the prodigal son didn't figure things out until he had lost all support, been on his own, and lived with the consequences of his choices.  When he wanted to leave, his father didn't go running after him or bribe him with gifts.  He let him go.  This son didn't come to his senses until he got so low, he had to feed pigs to survive.  

I realize this sounds terrible - but some people simply need to feed pigs.  It's possible that the longer we protect them from doing so, the more we actually delay their recovery, not help.  After all, if we could just have the courage to trust God, then let go and let them fall, it's quite possible they'll eventually land safely in His arms.  Sometimes reaching this level of despair is what it takes for us to finally turn to Him for help. 

In fact, you know the part of the story where the father runs to meet his prodigal son who has returned with a new heart?  Well, we get to see that happen here!  We see the courageous women we serve, run to our Heavenly Father with renewed spirits and open hearts - and He runs toward them with open arms as if they never left.  And I can tell you - it's a beautiful, beautiful sight that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Psalms 40:1-3

Click here to read an earlier post on this topic:  A Beautiful Place Called Rock Bottom