Our prodigal finally tiptoed through our backdoor at 2 a.m. last night.
We’ve had our orange cat for about 11 years now. I picked him out of a litter of tiny strays at the Humane Society when we lived in New Jersey. He was strikingly beautiful with swirls of white in his fur.
And he was terrified of us and the world.
Since he had lived outside as a newborn before he was taken to the Humane Society, what he knew was the outdoors. For years, he would stomp all over my potted plants to push their leaves down and then sleep on the soil.
At some point, this Scaredy-Cat, who is supposed to stay inside, got a taste of the outdoors again. At first, it was little excursions out the back door. Then longer jaunts into the wooded area behind our house.
On Wednesday night, he ran out in the evening, after it had already grown dark and bitterly cold. It was the first day of spring and we’d been watching bursts of snow showers all day.
So, we went into “recovery” mode. I opened the back door and made a loud production of pouring food into his food dish. My husband searched the yard and called his name. We left the door cracked open all night and put his cat bed out on the deck.
And we prayed.
But he didn’t come home. Not all that night. Not all the next day, even though I abandoned chores to trek through the woods calling his name and spent the rest of the day peering out the back windows watching for him to shoot up the stairs of the deck.
…Not even after I started to suggest to my daughters that maybe he wasn’t coming home and they invented adventure stories about how he made a new friend or went to kitty preschool or visited the cat doctor.
…Not after we bowed our heads as a family and each daughter and parent prayed that Oliver would come home.
At 2 a.m., though, I woke abruptly and fought the urge to roll back over and go back to sleep. I fumbled for my glasses and plodded in bare feet to the back door, expecting to see an empty deck.
Instead, I saw our orange cat nibbling at the food we’d left for him. He lifted his face to look at me as if nothing had ever happened, and when I opened up the door, he just tiptoed inside nonchalantly like it was no big deal whatsoever.
All that time he was gallivanting through the woods or maybe hunkered down somewhere trying to keep warm, I thought and prayed about this cat. Every time I walked outside, pulled my coat up close and felt the chill deep down in my bones, I thought about him.
And I’m not sure I ever really understood Jesus’ passionate, intense, and committed pursuit of the lost and the prodigals until now.
I was worried about a cat.
He’s concerned about people He loves enough to die for.
Sure, I read the parables in Luke 15. The Lost Coin. The Lost Sheep. The Lost Son (there’s that prodigal).
I thought I knew–Yes, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 HCSB).
But I really didn’t understand. Not the way that they would linger on His mind or how He’d put aside other agendas to pursue them or that He’d keep searching long after most of us would lose all hope.
He leaves the 99 sheep, to wander the hillside looking for the one stray.
He runs full speed toward the prodigal returning home and welcomes him in, celebrating rather than chastising.
And that woman who lost the one silver coin—I’ve been there. Turning on all the lights. Sweeping the whole house. Scripture says she would “search carefully until she finds it” (Luke 15:8). I don’t know what “carefully” looks like for her, but it sounds so methodical and orderly.
My searches look more like frantic overturning of dresser drawers, tossing things out of closets, sweeping papers off of desks and rumbling through junk all while whispering desperate prayers that God would just help this crazy woman find this oh-so-important-thing already!
I lose that for people too much of the time, that willingness to keep on relentlessly praying for the lost and the fervent intercession for and seeking out of the prodigals.
I struggle to confess–it’s ugly, but true—I think I felt more worry over my runaway cat and more desperation about finding missing pieces of paper than over the wayward and hurting around me.
And that needs to change.
Do you need to re-commit to praying for lost loved ones or loving the prodigals you know?
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King