Cats groom themselves, and Baxter is no exception. Grooming has a number of purposes in the feline world. It keeps things like coat, paws and nose clean. It fills in time when there are no interest prey to watch. It soothes the cat when something upsets it. A few hardly licks of the back or shoulder, and whatever was causing anxiety and frustration seems to disappear. In fact, one of the ways you know that you have an emotionally troubled cat is if he or she grooms him or herself incessantly. Too much of a good thing turns bad when neurotic compulsiveness causes sin irritation. There is another down side to grooming -- hairballs! All that loose fur that the grooming relieves from the outside can gum up the insides. The hacking and full body peristalsis that can result are anything but pleasant for both pet and owner.
To groom the hard-to-reach places, cats have this remarkable ability to contort their bodies. They can twist in almost 180 degrees or fold themselves in half to get every inch of their torsos for a comforting lick or two. they won't stop stretching and bending until they get to the exact spot that needs attention. Comfort is worth the indignity of a compromised position. Grooming is all about the cat making him or herself feel comfortable, safe and secure. Baxter always feels better about himself after a few well-placed licks.
We have our own way of making ourselves feel comfortable and secure. Instead of licking our physical surface, we lick the internal side of ourselves, our spirits. When we are hurt by life's unfairness and rejection, we sometimes keep the wounds clean and fresh by wallowing in self-pity. When we are insecure and nervous, we do what it takes to feel at ease again -- eat too much, smoke, indulge our sexual fantasies, or overwork. When depressed or despairing about our significance or importance, we do something to convince ourselves that we matter and make a difference. Maybe we shop. Maybe we drink too much alcohol. Maybe we gossip about others' flaws and failures. Whatever it is, we build ourselves up by reaching for something that we think adds to our stature or dulls the pain of feeling small. We soothe our wounded spirit with something that licks our ego and brings a comfortable feeling for a while. But it doesn't last.
Our self-generated comforts all wear off in time, and we are left with the same wounded, anxious, depressed person in the mirror. We can't heal ourselves permanently. The wounds, anxiety and despair are too deep, rooted in original sin and the power of evil that is beyond our abilities to control. Only a power greater than ourselves and our devices can heal our souls, quiet our self-doubts, and lift our spirits. This is the power of the Risen Lord that promises peace beyond the grave, instills confidence through faith, and brings hope based upon a love that death could not contain. The resurrection grooms us for a new kind of life, one that finds comfort not in what we can do for ourselves, but in what God can do for us through sharing our talents with each other in the Lord's name. That is what God's love looks like when it grooms us into something beautiful. We discovered a communion of life that uses the circumstances we are in to reveal a deeper dimension, the mystery of grace saving us and ennobling us in the process.
Baxter needs a lick of his tongue to keep him calm and balanced. We need a lick of grace to find peace and our true worth. Let us help each other find the beauty secret we are looking for and the comfort it brings by sharing God's grace in our service to and with each other. We will all feel better that way -- less anxious, more secure, healed and at peace -- without the problem of hairballs.