Tiggert's Paws

By: Rev. Gregory S. Neal

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Tiggert was a darling Maine Coon cat, given to me in 1990 by a member of Temperance Hall United Methodist Church in North Carolina. Because of their current popularity among professional cat breeders, Maine Coons are an expensive breed of cat. They are the largest and most robust of the domestic breeds, with huge fluffy tails, distinctive ear tufts, broad cheekbones, and an extraordinarily full and lush coat which is often distinguished by tabby-stripe marking. They are intelligent, protective, loyal, playful, and affectionate. While Tiggert had all these personality traits, and nearly all of the physical characteristics, he was just a bit too small for his breed due to his heritage – his mommy and daddy were brother and sister – and that was why I got him for free. None of his brothers or sisters made it out of kittenhood, but Tiggert did . . . as lively and “wild” as ever.

He was very much a “Methodist” cat: there was a method to his madness. In other words, he would go about things in a very methodical way. He knew how to annoy me, how to please me, and how to get out of me precisely what he wanted. As my mother used to say: Tiggert had me wrapped around his little paw. Well ... perhaps.

Tiggert knew that I hated being annoyed when sleeping. And, he knew that nothing is more annoying to me than little sounds in a quiet house. Therefore, the sound of a paw padding against the bathroom cabinets was enough to get me up, out of bed, and attending to the needs of “His Holiness.” Perhaps a story will illustrate my point?

One night, many years ago, Tiggert took up running from the living room, on the far end of the house, down the hall to my bedroom and up onto my bed, where he would tag my left foot and then hop off the bed and go racing back up the hall to the living room. There, he would meow loudly, circle the coffee table, and then head back down the hall for my bedroom, my bed, and my foot. After about 5 rounds of the “let’s pester Greg” routine, I said to myself “one more time, and I’m putting a stop to this.”

The silence was deafening. Perhaps the little beast had given up? I sighed and rolled over, content to let it rest. But, then, from far away in the silence I could hear the rumble of Tiggert’s paws, pounding down the hallway toward the bedroom. The sound of their rumble rounded the corner of the hallway, came into the room, and then ceased as Tiggert went airborne onto my bed, where he padded and nibbled my foot for a moment before darting off the bed and out the door and back up the hall. In the quiet, dark of the night, it sounded like bulrushes.

There was only one way to put a stop to this nonsense and so, even though I hated doing it, I finally climbed out of bed and closed the bedroom door. Then, curling back up in my bed, I closed my eyes and started to drift back off to sleep.

The rumbling sound of Tiggert’s dash down the hallway reached me in my groggy haze just before a loud THWACK against the bedroom door jerked me fully awake. With a bit of concern, I got out of bed and opened the door only to find Tiggert standing there with the most bemused, not to mention dazed, expression on his face. Chuckling at my cat for having knocked himself silly, I scooped him up into my arms and went back to bed. Tiggert, in his brain-jarred state, would just have to settle for that.  And, he did.

The moral of this story is clear. We can get bullheaded about what we want. We can be demanding, annoying, and altogether unreasonable. We can employ devious tactics to get our way, and sometimes we even succeed. But, in the end, our schemes usually only end up knocking us silly.

This is especially true when it comes to our relationship with God. Who are we to be bullheaded, demanding, and insistent with God? Who do we think we are, pestering the Creator of the Universe like we sometimes do? How dare we go charging down God’s hallway, bounding up onto God’s bed to demand our own way? If we’re not careful, we too will knock ourselves silly.

God loves us and cares for us and knows what is best for us. And, yet, we are so frequently apt to knock ourselves out trying to get our own way. When will we learn that God’s ways are not our ways, and that sometimes it’s best to just rest in God’s strong, tender, loving arms?

© 1994 Rev. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved
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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from Amazon.com.