by Rhonda Loucks
I have had cats all my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time that we didn’t own at least one cat as a family pet. So, today while I watched our two new kittens chase their own shadows, I was surprised at myself for earlier never associating the practice of what my cats were doing with the old cliché “chasing shadows.” It is possible that one of these two little guys is just really obsessive and therefore more continually noticeable, or that he is an extremist and therefore much more dramatically observable when he takes on this pursuit. For whatever reason, watching those cute little monsters has given me an insightful moment with the Lord.
Sitting at the table having coffee and some morning devotions, my eyes were distracted by the cute and playful images of kittens wrestling with each other in the sunlight of the doorway. Bouncing and jumping and frolicking around after each other and themselves and honestly any particle of dust that ventured their way. No harm, just good, clean, honest playing around. Tails and ears and paws and oh my…cute, cute, cute.
Then one of the kittens moved away and went to lie down, while the other didn’t seem to notice. He was still absolutely involved with the opponent at hand; his shadow. He turned and twisted and dodged this “now I see it, now I don’t” figure for quite some time. Each time the opponent snuck-up behind him, the kitten would jump vertically in the air at a height that both astonished me and made the shadow disappear. Then by landing, the sneaky little foe was again observed by the kitten…even closer and more challenging this time. So, more effort was exerted to twist and pounce and maneuver out from under the grasp of this relentless, troublesome opponent. Until the kitten had worked itself up into a frenzy of physical exhibition and then…exhaustion.
I found myself laughing out loud at the feet up, feet down, body slipping sideways efforts of the kitten to both capture and overcome, and then run and hide from, his oppressor. All the while I knew that my kitten was in no danger. And that, with some age and maturity, this kitten would come to realize that his shadow would only be as big as he ever makes it.
After watching this kitten, the clarity of my desire is to live with more spiritual maturity than to chase my own shadow. Never really forgiving myself, never letting myself forget, making a bigger deal out of situations than they really are, opening wounds, allowing Satan to remind me of my failures, looking at my days more half empty than half full…these are my shadows. And, as I allow myself to be startled by them and try to overpower them…I end up exhausted, again.
The most enlightening part of watching my kitten play with his shadow is realizing that he never had to fight this obstacle at all. The most difficult part of me getting a glimpse of myself wrestling with my own shadow, is realizing that I too am usually the source of my own opponent.
And like the kitten in the morning sun, how I stand in the light affects the size and shape and intensity of my shadow. If I stand facing the Light, my shadow will always be behind me…where it can no longer trick me into battle or distract me from my spiritual goal…a growing relationship with Christ.
Rhonda Loucks is a wife, mother, Sunday School teacher and member of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene. She contributes regularly to the church’s Women’s Ministry newsletters.