We keep our cat Ira indoors for a reason: there are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood and we want him to be safe. He does not understand this. He believes our rules are unreasonable and unnecessarily restrictive He is sure he can fend for himself and that he does not need us to take care of him. Of course, he is always quite willing to eat the food we offer him, but he never shows gratitude for it. He acts as if we somehow owe it to him. And he resents our keeping him in the “prison” of our home.
Ira has run out the door a million times without incident. But last week, he ran out the door for the million and first time, and disappeared. We searched for him for two days. It sleeted. The wind was blowing cold and merciless. The temperature dropped to 20 degrees. We worried and hunted for him, calling his name, going door to door, handing out pictures of him. And at last, on the third night, we found him.
He was trapped 60 feet up in a tree. That’s like the height of a six-story building. This tree had been trimmed back within an inch of its life and had almost no branches between the ground and the crotch of three limbs where Ira had settled himself. He was so high up, you could barely make out his pathetic little face as he cried for help. The only way he could have had the initiative to climb that high was if a dog were chasing him. Well, we told him so, didn’t we? Not understanding the reasons for our rules did not help him escape the consequences of disobedience.
We called the fire department. They did not have a ladder tall enough to reach Ira, and the nearby power lines made it unsafe to use the bucket lift. They soon gave up and went home. Next we called a professional tree trimmer. By now it was nearly midnight, and he was unable to help Ira, either. The next day, we found an animal rescue service who sent out a man with their longest ladder. That ladder was almost 20 feet short of where Ira sat. We were getting desperate. After four days of sitting in that tree, Ira was dehydrated and hungry, as well as in danger of freezing to death. At last, we found a man who could climb trees using a sling and harness and spiked boots. He climbed up that tree, putting himself in danger of falling, and rescued our silly cat.
What’s the moral of this tale? Romans chapter 6 tells us that we are all slaves to what we obey. Ira obeyed his own instincts, believing that ignoring our restrictions would give him greater freedom. He ended up stuck in one position, completely alone, without food or water, and exposed to the elements, helpless to even move an inch in any direction. If he had been willing to obey US, he would have had everything a cat would want–free run of the entire nice, warm house; plenty of food and water; and people who love him.
Doing what I want looks like fun. It looks like freedom. But freedom from what? Freedom from God means freedom from all the good things He wants to give us. Freedom to do what we want can look attractive, but can lead to horrifying circumstances! Ira thought he knew more about how life works than we do. He thought that fulfilling his own desires would give him happiness. He had to learn the hard way that we actually do know what’s best for him. I had to learn that lesson, too; I learned it well enough that I never want to be free from God again.