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Scaredy Cat Rescue: How Love Conquers All Fears

Jerusha Agen Fighting Fear 13 Comments

I’m giving away a free print copy of Vines of Entanglement by Lisa Carter to one of you who leaves a comment below! So don’t forget to join the conversation!

cat-bluegreen-eyes (853x1280)“Whatever you do, please don’t return her to the wild again.” The emphatic advice I received from a veteran feral cat rescuer gave me reason to hope.

After being told by the local animal shelter that the feral cat I’d managed to catch would be euthanized if I left her there, my only remaining options seemed to be to return the cat to the wild (now spayed) or attempt to keep her in my home. Given the cat’s level of terror at the mere sight of humans, the latter option didn’t seem realistic, until I spoke to a woman experienced in feral feline rehabilitation.

This wonderful lady instructed me in the best method for rehabilitating my feral cat, assuring me that her preferred method had been tried and proved successful in hundreds of feral feline rehab cases.

I grabbed at the hope this news offered. My goal was not to make this feral creature into an affectionate lap cat that would act like any other domestically raised feline. I assumed that wasn’t likely. My goal in keeping her instead of returning her to the wild was simply this: I wanted her to be free from a life of fear.

I’d seen her, out there under our deck. Those huge yellow eyes nearly popped out of her head as she froze in terror at the sight of us. I couldn’t forget that image even if I wanted to. She was worn down by years of living in fear, depending on that fear for her survival. She froze at the slightest noise or movement. She had to constantly keep watch, for her own sake and for her kittens.

She was clearly competent at the task of staying alive in the wild, but the life she led was marked and defined by fear.

As a calico domestic shorthair, this mother cat was descended from domesticated felines. She wasn’t meant for a life in the wild, a life of fear. She was meant to live under the safety and protection of love. I wanted her to have a chance at the life she was meant to live.

cat-jumping (1280x853)Several weeks later, my once-feral cat was calming down a bit. She would engage in a bit of play with a toy I dangled through the walls of the jumbo-sized dog crate in which she was housed. But she was still wary of people, myself included when I would open the doors of the crate to supply food, etc.

I was careful not to rush the process, no matter how much I wanted to just touch her, to show her how much I’d come to love her. But one day, as we played through the crate wall, I was able to reach a finger through the bars and touch her soft fur, ever so gently.

She didn’t startle as I had expected. She seemed to enjoy the touch. She stayed at the side of the cage and I touched her again, this time reaching in a few more fingers to pet her.

Breakthrough. She leaned into the petting, and her life changed. It was as if my touch shattered the wall of fear surrounding her.

From then on, she didn’t become frightened when I approached because she looked forward to the petting. She couldn’t get enough of my love. She always wanted more petting, more affection. The rest of the rehabilitation process went quickly, thanks to this breakthrough.

cat-pawing-hand (853x1280)Any time she faced something that made her afraid outside of her crate as she explored the house, I discovered that if I could get close to her, I could enable her to conquer her fear simply by reaching down and stroking her back or head. She would stand taller under the touch and press forward, as if my love had flowed into her and come out as courage.

The times that she didn’t let me close, she would revert to her feral ways, relying on her fear to save her and ending up needlessly hiding under a sofa, stressed and afraid.

But as she kept letting me near and received reminders of my love, her fears disappeared, to the point that she is now the friendliest cat I’ve ever known. She greets every visitor, buddies up to our big dogs, and is the lap cat I didn’t think she could become.

As I look back and remember those early days with my rescued cat, I see something surprising. I see in her a reflection of myself.

How many times have I relied on my fear instead of God to keep me safe? How often have I tried to handle my fears without God’s help and ended up cowering somewhere in a frightful mess?

I know that, far more frequently than I’d like to remember, I’ve let my worries and anxieties drive me away from God, desperately searching for help elsewhere, when all along He’s waiting for me to draw close so He can show me just how much He loves me.

In the greatest act of love ever, Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, dying a horrific death and suffering the judgment that we deserved for our sins. Part of the reason He did that was so “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear” (Luke 1:74).

Because of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us, we no longer have to fear the judgment of God in eternity (see the guest post I wrote on perfect love casting out fear for more on this). But what I often forget is that God’s love gives us power over fear in our earthly lives, too.

We weren’t meant to live in fear any more than my feral cat. We weren’t created to have to rely on fear in order to survive. We were created to rely on the love of our Creator, Jesus Christ, the One who rescued us from our fearful lives.

know-love-of-God-graphic (1280x853)The Apostle Paul communicates how infinite that love is when he prays for the Ephesians that they “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).

Our all-knowing, all-powerful, omniscient God loves His chosen children with a love so big and infinite that we can’t comprehend or even imagine the extent of it. When we love someone as much as a person can, we would do anything to protect our loved one from harm, to ensure nothing but good for that individual.

How much more so, then, must God work to ensure the best for us? To keep us safe, to direct us in the way we should go, to give us everything good and wonderful (Matthew 10:29-31)?

If you’re like me, then you probably don’t begin to understand this love of Christ. Like Paul, we need to pray that we may “have strength to comprehend it,” because the greater our understanding of His love, the greater our ability to fight fear. For if we know and fully believe that the Creator of the universe and the one who controls all things has an everlasting, incomprehensibly deep love for us, then we will have nothing left to fear.

The next time you face a fear, when anxiety or worry creeps up on you, or when a phobia leaps out in a surprise attack, draw near to God. Come close to Him through prayer or Scripture, and you’ll feel His gentle hand reaching down with the touch of love. A love that will flow through you and come out as courage.

My grandfather used to commend me on the great work I’d done in rehabilitating a feral cat. But I always told him that it wasn’t anything I’d done. It was love.

As your fears lose the hold they have on your life and you defeat them one by one, you’ll be able to tell others—it wasn’t anything I’ve done. It was love.

Has God’s love helped you face a fear? Do you turn away from God or press in to Him when you’re afraid? Please join the conversation!

Just for some springtime fun, I’m going to give a free print copy of Lisa Carter’s Vines of Entanglement to one of you who leaves a comment below! (Winner to be chosen and contacted via email April 3, 2017. Continental U. S. addresses only.)

VinesofEntanglementA tangled web of lies characterizes the life Laura Mabry has built for herself and her son after the tragic death of her husband. But Laura’s carefully constructed world slides off its axis when she stumbles upon the body of a young college student on the recreational trails of Raleigh’s Greenway. What’s worse, Detective Jon Locklear is Laura’s worst nightmare…and her dream come true.

Jon has spent years trying to forget Laura. Past experience has taught him that he can’t trust her, but old habits—like old loves—die hard. When the killer turns his attention on Laura, Jon may be the only one who can save her.

Truth and murder lurk just around the corner for Laura. Can she find the courage to face her deepest fears and unravel the lies of her past before she and her son become the Greenway Killer’s next victims?

Comments 13

  1. Angie Arndt

    Great post, Jerusha! I don’t know if Mia was feral or not, but my dogs had treed her and no one claimed the sweetheart. It took days for her to come to me, but in the end, she was my snuggle buddy, day and night. Love can be hard to process sometimes, especially when your history of love consists of violence or worse. It’s only when we look to God’s perfect love that we’re able to share the same.

    Thanks for rescuing your calico. You gave her new life, as Christ gives us.

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      Jerusha Agen

      How wonderful that you rescued the treed kitty, Angie! Isn’t it amazing the rewards that we get back when we show love to God’s creatures? Such a blessing. And, really, we get that kind of blessing when we show love to other people, too. 🙂 You’re so right that love, showing or receiving, can be especially difficult for people who have had negative experiences with those who profess to love them. Thanks for sharing that insight. I love the hope you also mentioned, that God can redeem even those experiences and teach those most hurt how to love because He first loved them. Thanks for joining the conversation today! And say “hi” to Mia for me. 🙂

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  2. Beth Sanders

    Awww, Jerusha, that’s such a sweet story! 🙂 I’m sure glad your kitty is now leading a happy and comfortable life — free from fear!

    I love the picture of your cat pressing in to you whenever she faced a scary situation. That’s exactly what we as children of God are supposed to do — cling to Him (Deuteronomy 10:20)! Unfortunately, for most of us, we tend to run away from our only Source of comfort and refuge instead. Thanks for the reminder of the infinite greatness of God’s love for us. What a great incentive to run to Him in times of anxiety and trouble!

    P.S. Incidentally, the subject of cats came up in conversation with your brother Josh yesterday. So when I saw the title of your post this morning, I had to smile! 😉

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      Jerusha Agen

      Amen, Beth! Praise the Lord that the story of my kitty and her response to love was a reminder to you, as it was to me, to draw near to God and experience His great love when we’re afraid. Thanks for contributing more truth and scriptural reminders to the conversation today!

  3. Susan | The Sparrow's Home

    I love this message. I am no cat fan, and you had me tearing up! We may not feel overwhelmed by God’s love for us every minute, but praise Him for those moments when we do feel it, when the depth of His love washes over us and we really feel it to our core. It is remarkable to me how God teaches us such profound lessons if we are only looking for them. Thank you for finding this one, and sharing it. Pinning this to share.

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      Jerusha Agen

      I’m so thankful this post resonated with you, Susan! I wholeheartedly agree–it’s amazing how God presents us with so many opportunities to learn and grow in understanding of His truth if we take the time to pay attention. I’m thankful that He called me to write a blog that forces me to do just that, or I, too, would have missed the lesson for me in this life experience. Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement!

  4. Patricia Bradley

    Aww, I’m so glad you kept her and that she responded to your love. I have a rescue kitty but she wasn’t feral. I got her at the shelter and the funny thing was–when I brought her into the house, it wasn’t five minutes before she thought she owned the place. 🙂 She also leans into my touch when I rub her back and it is a perfect picture of how we’re supposed to do the same thing with God’s touch.

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      Jerusha Agen

      I love that you have a rescue kitty, as well, Pat! Sounds like she’s the bold and brave type, or she just knew you were her destination for a forever home right away. 🙂 Thanks for sharing her story!

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      Jerusha Agen

      Thanks for stopping by, Peg, and thank you for your kind words! God is really the inspiring One–any good I did for my kitty, all the good she’s brought me, and this example of how we need to lean into God’s love to beat our fears are ALL from God and only because of Him! I’m so thankful that He used this post to inspire you today. I know you’re an animal lover, too, so I’m sure you could relate. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  5. Marjorie

    Thank you for these encouraging thoughts, Jerusha! I have fought worry and fear all my life, but I am so thankful that I can go to God with all my worries and He does encourage me repeatedly through His Word. His love for us is so amazing! (I talked to you on Saturday at the conference and said I would check out your blog. So glad I did!)

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      Jerusha Agen

      Thank you for taking the time to visit the blog, Marjorie! I can definitely relate to fighting a lifelong battle against fear. But we can and will win that fight with God’s strength! I enjoyed getting to meet you at the conference. I hope you were blessed by the event. You’re so right, God’s love for us is amazing, and we can find great encouragement in that. Thanks for joining the conversation today!

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