February 14, 2017
I met my wife at the dumpster. At least that’s our story.
We actually met in her office at the college where we both work. Only later, when she moved in to the same apartment complex I lived in next to campus, did we meet while taking out trash to the dumpster, where I, still reeling from another love lost, on a whim, seductively uttered those four magical words: “Don’t I know you?”
It wasn’t quite “You had me at hello,” but she was charmed, or found me to be pitied, or both. A few dates — first lunch, then a ball game (this was the test for her — if she could sit with me nine innings, we had a chance), later dinner — and before long, it was love.
Now I usually recommend to my college students that the first date be to Waffle House. Go with two eggs with toast, hash browns (smothered, covered, and spanked), and one big waffle. Only my lady had a few allergies, so that was not an option, which, in retrospect, was better for my cholesterol levels at my advanced age.
But we spent time getting to know each other, with all the requisite ups and downs, including a break-up of several months before giving it another try. The rest of the story simply is that we got married. But it did not come easy, especially for me. You see, by this point, both of us were comfortable with the idea that the single life might be God’s plan for us both.
And by the way, if you are single and feel that God has called or might call you to the single life, let me encourage you in a few things, quickly.
One, rejoice in your singleness. Because of your singleness, God will place you in positions to honor him, serve others and go places that you would not go to do things you could not do if you were married. Don’t miss the opportunities God gives you now by looking past them to what could be.
Two, many Christian churches probably have no idea what to do with you. Intentionally or not, they too often think you’re lacking in something, when chances are, you’re not. But you can’t give up on the church; Jesus never will and you shouldn’t, either. Just smile and know they mean well.
Three, don’t look for someone to “complete” you. Only Jesus completes you. If you expect your future spouse or current spouse to somehow make you whole, you’re setting yourself up for a very disappointing, non-Jesus-focused marriage.
And four, related to three, let me say this loud and clear: there’s no such thing as The One. It’s not a prescriptive Biblical concept. It’s a Hollywood invention that Christians have bought into because a) we want there to be The One, and b) we’re too scared to make hard choices about when and whom to marry.
Anyway, Back to Me
And my wife-to-be. Shortly after we started dating, one of the many female stray cats roaming around our apartments had a litter. Soon enough, the couple who met at the dumpster had little dumpster divers of their own. There were four — Shadow and Stormy and Squirt and Cheddar. They ate our food offerings, slept in our flower pots, and were generally THE CUTEST THINGS EVER AWWWWWW.
Before long, winter came around, and all four had the run of our apartments. Long story short: Shadow and Stormy hung around the Belvoir long-term enjoying the good life. Squirt and Cheddar followed us to our new home, where we now cater to their every whim.
I’m sometimes asked why I share pictures of our cats online. It’s never a complaint, just an honest question. The Internet was made for cats, and they’re our little family. We don’t have kids, but if we ever do have kids, our Facebook friends will see pictures of those critters, too.
(But not many. My wife and I are a little old-fashioned about how much personal information we share, even photos of ourselves, and to whom. I’m even reluctant to write any of this, but I think it might be edifying to someone. I wish people would be more selective about sharing personal life details online. I really wish my students would get this.)
Everyone knows that the Internet can be a dangerous and creepy place. It can also be a profoundly depressing place. So why not try to make people laugh every once in a while?
I think we need one cat photo for every crack-pot political post or news article comment just to cancel out the stupid.
So if a quick pic provides a chuckle or smile to someone who needs it, I’ve done something worthwhile on some level, haven’t I?
Really though, I share the adventures of Squirt and Cheddar because I think they’re funny creatures. If you don’t think so, I don’t really care. Nothing personal. But my wife adores the buggers — and I love my wife.
And before my mom died two years ago, I promised her we would take care of her two cats, Lovey and Midnight. They are senior citizens now and have a sunroom all to their long-hair selves, happy, relatively healthy, and very well-fed. They’re reminders of the love my mom would give to any creature — including her son — who would care to crawl up in her lap.
About Those Cats
Can I get sentimental for a moment? My wife and I took three years to go from the dumpster to the altar. During those three years, when rough times came, we had something to bring us back to reality, silly as it may sound — a shared responsibility for two of God’s creatures who, rather than us choosing them, in some way, chose us.
It’s doubtful that God sent Cheddar and Squirt purposefully to me and my wife. They could have suckered any other residents of the Belvoir but chose to hang out with us because we fed them cheese and turkey. So though I do not believe the hand of God guided their little paws to scratch on our door frames, I do think he used them to strengthen our evolving relationship.
Yet either way, Cheddar and Squirt became ours. They were a source of comfort as we struggled with big decisions. They adopted us, provided us with something to take care of together even as we learned how to take care of each other. And most importantly, they had chances to run away, but didn’t. They just kept coming back. Humans don’t always do that.
Humans run away and stay gone far more often than pets do. Unfortunately, humans tend to leave way too easily.
Look, I know — they’re cats. Their time with us will be up sooner than we’d like to acknowledge. But for now, Squirt and Cheddar (and Lovey and Midnight) are what God has given us. They all remind of us of God’s provision and faithfulness, of how he brought us together and help keep us together. They connect us to a season of life when we began.
I’ve always believed that God loves strays of all species. Now, after seeing how he pieced four strays into a family, I’ve never been more sure.