After debating in my mind all afternoon, I finally decided: This event was momentous enough to take an evening off from school. After weeks of searching, we had finally located a gray tiger kitten—and he needed somebody to babysit him while Mom went to the church board meeting on the way home. I brought three biology books along to appease my conscience, but I knew I'd hardly read them.
Riley came from a house with lots of other cats. In fact, when we pulled up, we immediately spotted 4 or 5 of them in the yard. Soon another one ambled across the street, and the owners said Riley's mom was still inside. A member of the oldest litter, Riley had a whole pile of little baby cousins out next to the shed, and he himself had grown up with 5 sibling kittens. Still, his owner cried when we took him away.
We knew he's be lonely in our cat-less house, and we hadn't seen any dogs on the premises. At our place, the only available animal companion would be a black lab—at least until we could find an orange tiger kitten to be his playmate. Till then, Riley would need lots of attention and love: two things I wouldn't have a hard time administering. Riley's cute little face and his tiny voice had already captured my heart.
We spent most of our first evening playing hide-and-seek—except it wasn't really a game. Riley wanted little to do with me, but it seemed he wanted even less to do with his crate. Outside the cat carrier, he ran and hid; inside, he clawed and yowled. In my hands, he kicked and clawed. It proved to be an extra-long board meeting.
At last I decided on a new tactic: I wouldn't let this kitten down no matter how much he protested. When clasping him in my hands grew dangerous, I cornered him in my lap, a hand above him and one in front of him. As he struggled to get free, I stroked him lightly with my free finger.
The fight ended suddenly when Riley fell asleep. He didn't wake up till it was time to leave—and by that time, he was mostly OK with me.
But the victory wasn't really complete. Back home, though he cried with heart-stirring pathos, he made his independence clear by hiding behind the couch and backing away each time I reached for him. Unwilling to let us cuddle him to sleep, he seemed intent on making the couch his kingdom.
And yet, we knew he wanted companions. And so the next day, I kept up my pursuit, catching him whenever I could for a good pet and cuddle. Although my mom did the same, I fully expected this process to take a challenging week.
Mom says Riley is a spoiled kitten, with two (doting) mamas all too eager to anticipate his wants and love on him. Still, we know that's why he's adjusted so well. By being intent on loving Riley, we have won his kitten heart. We've become his best friends.
At first I was tempted to be offended at Riley's rejection and repulsion. Tired and busy, I did have fleeting thoughts of "suit yourself, little cat." But if I had acted on those feelings, I wouldn't have my little study-buddy to distract and delight me. I wouldn't get purrs and cuddles and giggles. I'd be missing out big time.
It's often the same way with people. Although they are lonely, people often seem to spurn our efforts to make friends. On the inside, they may be longing for companionship, while outwardly they may seem aloof or even haughty.
I've had more than one deep, special friendship develop with people who at first seemed unreachable. It's always taken perseverance, sometimes hurt feelings, and often creativity. But most important, it's taken relentless, persistent love. Then all of a sudden, we're fast friends.
But I've been on Riley's side of it, too. I've retreated to my inner kingdom and made it hard for well-meaning friends to draw to me out. I've acted like I didn't want them around. I've played immature games of hide-and-seek. I'm so thankful for the ones that kept seeking me out. I'm thankful that they didn't give up. I'm glad they didn't let me have things my way. I'm glad they loved me even when I was being a pest.
Most of all, I'm thankful for my Jesus. I've hid from Him so many times. I've retreated from His presence, built up walls around my soul. And still, He keeps loving. Still, He keeps seeking. Still, He keeps showing me His relentless, persistent, undying interest. He keeps calming my fears and cuddling my heart.
This week I want to be like Riley. I want to soak in all the persistent love my Jesus can give.