It was 14 years ago this summer that the Lord Jesus called me back into pastoral ministry. At the time our family was deeply wounded and broken because of deep sin that had come into our lives. One of our first discoveries after we arrived at Twining Baptist Church was that once a week the bookmobile would come and park in our church parking lot as a community delivery point. Deb even worked as a sub a few times filling in when needed. It was during one of her visits to the bookmobile that she found out the bookmobile attendant was a cat person. This lady had been given one of her cats back from a previous litter because its owner turned out to be allergic to cats. Sweet Pea (the cat’s name) was not doing well. She was the 7th cat in a house where the pecking order had already been established. Deb volunteered to give Sweet Pea a new home.
Sweet Pea was weak and frail at 6 pounds and was suffering with an ear infection when she came to stay with us. But it didn’t take long for Sweet Pea to become a real part of our family. We had put down our previous cat, Buzzy, in April of that year at 19 years of age. Sweet Pea didn’t replace Buzzy but over the following months she grew healthier, stronger and added a few pounds. She had begun to heal just like our family was healing. Ashley used to spend hours playing with Sweet Pea, inventing games and making cat toys. There really wasn’t much to do in Twining, MI for an 8 year old. Sweet Pea would be the first one to greet me every morning for feeding. She didn’t even mind if I got up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. as I sometimes do. She would frequently sit and watch me having my morning devotions and after prayer time we would have purr time together. She taught me about being content with just spending time together. I would frequently reflect on her joy in our moments together and realized that’s how I need to sit at Jesus’ feet and just have great joy in spending time with my Lord who provides for all my needs. I want to bring a purring heart of contentment and joy to my God as I spend time with Him every moment.
And that’s how it was until the last few weeks. Sweet Pea was diagnosed with intestinal cancer on May 11th as well as hyperthyroidism just one day after Ashley’s college graduation and 2 days before we left for Hawaii. We were able to provide some vital medications and she temporarily revived. But by the end of June Sweet Pea stopped showing up to greet me at the door for her morning feeding. Finally on July 9th we had to take her and put her down. What a painful moment it was. And then it dawned on me that with our pets there really are no happy endings. If we live long enough we’ll always outlive our pets. So what’s the point of having pets if we’re always going to be saying goodbye?
Well pets teach us many valuable life lessons. Sweet Pea reminded me on almost a daily basis of the pure joy I should have of just sitting at Jesus’ feet and being with Him. She was our “furapist” through many difficult losses. Since being at New Durham we’ve experienced the death of a grandson, my wife’s former best friend, both of our dads, and this past November the passing of my sister. Pets also remind us that life is fragile and it’s good to cherish each moment. Pets are also a source of wonderful memories. One of my favorite all time memories occurred back in March when my mom was staying with us following her hernia surgery. I had made Mom eggs for breakfast and was in the kitchen cleaning dishes. Mom got up from the table to get something in the kitchen and next thing you hear is mom screaming, “SWEET PEA”! Sweet Pea had jumped up on the table to sneak a taste of Mom’s eggs. At least she was courteous enough to pull her portion off the plate before consuming it. We all laughed at her boldness to pull one over on Mom. Pets make wonderful memories and add richness to our lives as we love them.
I’m missing Sweet Pea in the morning. It’s not quite as easy to get up knowing she’s not there waiting for me. I’m reminded in times of loss of the words of Job in the 1st chapter of his book after he had lost everything in a single day. He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord”, (v. 21b, NKJV). Let’s rejoice in all the good gifts God gives us, as He truly is the one who’s waiting to greet us each morning.
Pastor Rich Sivo