This is a chapter on pp. 36-38 of my book. Click on the title to see Amazon's page for my book. Finding God In Everyday Life
St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower) had a wonderful gift for spiritual simile, the art of comparing images in every day life to her relationship with God. Sometimes she saw herself as a ball the child Jesus might play with for a time, then discard, or as a very small flower in some corner of Godís endless garden. These images helped Therese understand our utter dependence on God and how impossible it is to attain spiritual goals without His grace.
Once Therese compared her spiritual struggles to the efforts of a small child trying to climb the stairs to get to her father, who is standing at the top. The child scrambles up the first step only to fall back. She tries again and again, but no matter how hard she tries, she is not able to climb the stairs. Finally she opens her arms and cries out to her father, who, hearing her cries, sweeps her up in His embrace and sets her down at the top of the staircase. Such is the compassion of God, Therese tells us, when we cry out for His help Ė we can do nothing by ourselves, but with God all things are possible.
I was reminded of Therese recently in an incident with my cat, Mr. Tibbs. It was morning. I was standing in the hallway with my husband, discussing plans for the day, while my little black and white cat waited patiently for us to finish. At first Mr. Tibbs paced back and forth the length of the hall; then, when no one paid any attention to him, he began rubbing against my legs. Finally he meowed a few times, reminding me that I was supposed to pick him up as part of our morning routine. But I was so intent on the conversation, I ignored him. Suddenly, in complete frustration, Mr. Tibbs launched himself into the air like a small cannon-ball, bounced against my chest, and unable to get a paw-hold, careened back onto the floor where he lay in a furry little heap, staring up at me wide-eyed. He looked nearly as startled as I was. I asked myself, ĎWhat just happened here, anyway?í and suddenly realized how desperate Mr. Tibbs must have felt to take such drastic action. In a rush of sympathy I reached down, scooped him into my arms and nestled him against my shoulder, where he immediately began to purr like a little buzz saw.
What does this have to do with St. Therese and the spiritual simile? No sooner did I pick up Mr. Tibbs than a clear image entered my mind of how much like that cat I am in relation to God. I thought: my understanding about all that happens to me, about the timing and the purpose of it in Godís plan, is every bit as unclear as the communication of cat to human. It occurred to me that the relationship of my human wisdom to that of God is even more distant than that of cat to person. Yet I love my little cat and look with compassion on his eccentricities.
When I muse on Mr. Tibbís persistence in getting my attention, I am encouraged to hurl myself also, into Godís Presence Ė no matter how awkwardly Ė to call out boldly for His help and comfort. Surely what I would do for my cat, God would do for me.
I am grateful to St. Therese, the Little Flower of Jesus, for showing us how we can use the small insights that come to us in our ordinary, everyday lives, to draw closer to God. Whenever I look at Mr. Tibbs purring so contentedly on my shoulder, safe in my embrace, I think to myself, there is indeed much that I can learn from being Godís cat.
But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them... (Psalm 5:11).
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