Long ago, in a land far, far away, there was a king who had a daughter who loved cats. Tabby ones, ginger ones, black or white or both. Any colour was fine. She just loved them, and loved them so much that she brought home to the castle any that she found until, one day, she had brought home every cat in the kingdom. The castle was positively overflowing with cats, and they were everywhere. This was bad news for the king. The king hated cats.
The castle guards also became really cheesed off with the cats because they were always in the way, so they came up with an idea. They invented the ‘cat-a-pult’—a clever device into which they could put any cat and fling it over the wall and away from the castle. Now, the wall wasn’t terrifically high, but some cats sadly landed on their heads and died from the fall. A great tragedy. But the other cats managed to land on their feet and, albeit slowly, made their way back to the castle. Hooray.
Over time, the survivors were the cats who landed on their feet whilst the others were, well, not quite so lucky. A sad tale to be sure. But rest assured that all modern cats are descended from these cat-a-pult survivors, and that is why all cats now land on their feet.
A true story.
Okay... so I may have fabricated some (or all) of the details. And a good thing too since hurling cats (or any creature) over walls is an absolute no-no. My son is horrified that I could even sit and imagine such a thing. (No doubt I have fallen in his estimations and he is, even now, plotting how he can get me in cat-a-pult contraption to fling me over some wall.)
Whilst cats do have an ability called the ‘righting reflex’—which means they can right their body position however they fall so that they’re the right way up—that doesn’t mean they always land on their feet. The height of the fall really influences whether they can land safely on their feet, so if it’s too high or too low the chances of the cat landing without injury are small. Interestingly, falling from a greater height means the chances of injury are reduced because the longer falling time gives the cat more time to right themselves.
And the truth is that most injuries to falling cats occur from accidental falls. Cats have a natural affinity for heights so wouldn’t deliberately jump if the distance was too great.
Now, why am I telling you all of this? Well, besides the fact that we have two cats who lack both grace and grit and are therefore unlikely to ever risk doing anything that might result in a fall, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that there are some life lessons here.
You, my friend, have an inbuilt righting reflex all of your own. My hips long gave up demonstrating any kind of flexibility, and in truth I never possessed any athleticism. Not even that time I was chased across a field by a particularly tetchy bull and tore my brand new cagoule as I less-than-nimbly vaulted over the barbed wire fence. I hated that jacket anyway. (Sorry (not sorry) Mum.) But I know that I have been equipped with the ability to intuitively sense when I'm in danger of falling and to right myself if I should take a tumble. Call it survival instinct if you will but I call it Holy Spirit, and he can speak in ways more attention-grabbing than those horrendous stadium air horns patriotic (Was that psychotic?) fans insist on taking to football games. My point is that we are all innately created for good, and we will do good if we just learn to listen for the Holy Spirit 'horn'. Truth to tell, sometimes he speaks with the volume of a bee's buzz, but let's learn to pay attention to the horn first before bending our ears for the buzz.
And if you fall, get up, shake yourself off, and start again. Obviously, it’s not always easy to get back up, especially if you’re a bit bruised and bashed, and so much of that is to do with shame. But you know, shame was never written into the plan for us. Our enemy is so crafty. By causing us to feel ashamed, wanting to hide ourselves, he knows that we bury who we are and forget that we are God’s image bearers. As we shrink and diminish, we become less like the work of art we were meant to be and instead cower in the mere shadow of our beauty.
Doesn't it show you, though, just how important you must be if both God and Satan think you're worth fighting for? Gee whizz. If only we could see that our falls are opportunities for grace, and our strength is built every time we get back up, I'm pretty sure we'd soon see that God is always right and shame has no power over us.
Each fall, each getting back to our feet, strengthens us and prepares us for the amazing adventures God has in store for us. See it as training, and try not to dwell on the image of me being pursued by short-sighted bovine.