Monday, March 9, 2009

The Black Cat

In The Story of Webster, by that incomparable humorist, P.G. Wodehouse, a young, bohemian painter inherits a black cat named Webster who sits around looking at him with such disapproval that the artist very nearly has to give up his dissolute lifestyle. Much to the alarm of his friends and fianceĆ©, he starts shaving in the middle of the week, in fact, every morning, and wearing blue serge suits “with creases down the trouser-legs” and reading a book of etiquette. He gives up cigars and is very nearly at the point of having to give up drinking, too, being saved from this disaster only at the last moment when – well, you should read the story yourself. My point is, this young man was projecting his conscience onto Webster the cat. And that’s how we in the West tend to feel about our conscience, too. (Okay, I’m speaking for myself, but I say “we” supposing I’m not all that different from other folks.) We tend to feel as if our conscience were something dark and shadowy, always watching us. We can make it purr if we are very careful to keep doing everything as we ought. Otherwise, most of the time, the conscience is like that black cat, sitting there watching, staring, looking at us – with disapproval. Sometimes one even feels God is rather like that. He’s eyeing you with disapproval and waiting for you to do better.

But no, no, no, a thousand times no! God is neither like some black panther prowling at your elbow nor like some dread reckoning you are eventually going to have to face, but you’d rather put it off as long as possible. That is not Who God is; that is Who our sins paint Him as in our minds, with the devil’s own paintbrush. You don’t have to kick yourself first to get to God. Repentance doesn’t mean feeling rotten about yourself; it means turning to embrace what, or rather, Who, is right there beside you, waiting for you, always open to you; namely, pure Love that holds no grudge, pure Goodness, Kindness, Understanding, Joy. The Christian God, in short, is like the father of the Prodigal Son.

No, you don’t want to put off repentance, because our God is beautiful and is your freedom.

Oh, and the reckoning, and the feeling rotten about yourself? That will come, but by the time it does, you won’t mind – far from it! – because you’ll be doing your weeping from your safe haven within the arms of your all-compassionate God. You’ll weep even as Hope swaddles you with Joy, and the tears will not be bitter, but somehow, miraculously, very sweet.


Marsha said...

Beautiful!! And very helpful, too. Do you mind if I share this with my group of Orthodox friends on Facebook?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Go right ahead, Marsha, if it's helpful.

Beth said...

I came over from Marsha's facebook page - this is a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing it!