My cat is afraid of the vacuum. Not when it sits quietly in the closet or in whichever room it was last forgotten. Not when it meekly allows itself to be wheeled through one room to get to another. But plug that vacuum in and hit the power button, and my cat flees from a room like a bat out of hell.
Today, rolling the vacuum toward the south end of the house to clean the bedroom and hall, I passed by my cat sleeping in a cozy corner on the family room couch. She seemed oblivious to my movement, but I knew her nap was about to be shortened. As I reached my bedroom, plugged in the machine, and powered it to life, my mind went way back in time to a simple melody based on Isaiah 26:3:
I will keep you in perfect peace
If you only keep your mind
Stayed on me….
Keep your mind, keep your mind
Stayed on me…
By the time I reached the family room, my cat was long gone — as far from me and the vacuum as she could get. Why? A vacuum has never harmed her. I’ve never even teased her with it, pretending to do her harm. Yet she fears the vacuum more than she fears dogs. Surely, she can see that the vacuum is in my hands, under my control, and past experience should remind her that she has nothing to fear. She is safe; she should simply keep her eyes on me and remain at peace.
Then I realized how I am too much like my cat — fearing when I have nothing to fear. Just this week, for example, I lost a night’s sleep worrying about a lump in my big toe. (I had experienced some pain in the area a year ago and thought I might have some sort of bump, but it wasn’t large enough to see and I was content to play the ostrich and bury my head in the sand.) But the lump grew, and I finally showed it to my husband, who suggested I get it checked — and then I worried. I didn’t sleep well, and the next morning I called the doctor’s office as soon as it opened, thankful I was able to get an appointment immediately after lunch with a doctor I trusted. Until then, I kept my panic under control as I worked, entertaining words such as “cancer” and “tumor” as I edited documents.
The doctor said, “Don’t worry. It’s not cancer. If it’s a tumor; it’s benign. It is most likely arthritis or a ganglion cyst.” She gave me orders for a simple X-ray to rule out arthritis, and I left, calmed.
Until I tried to determine which radiology lab I should visit, having paid a small fortune for a blood draw when I went to the “wrong” lab (as in a lab associated with the hospital and thus billed as such). So I productively worried and fretted as I made calls to the insurance company and the various labs for actual costs… I also worried about a speech I had to give this week. Then I worried about a phone call to a powerful businessman I needed to make. And I otherwise looked at life’s little trials fearfully instead of peacefully putting my eyes on the One who controls them.
And as I vacuumed this afternoon, I realized I am not that different than my cat. I worry, I fret, I fear silly things. The trials in my life are a bit like that vacuum, a tool in God’s possession. Most often, they merely lurk there — present but not powerful or overwhelming. Other times they roll through my life as a quiet reminder that something could happen, but I can see the One whose hands are on the vacuum, and I manage to not fear. And then sometimes those trials rev into action as if to suck away my very life — and I fear and too often forget whose hands are there. Like my cat, I want to run and hide, but like my cat should, I need to be still and trust and let those trials do their work in and around me, removing the dirt and debris that shrouds my soul.
Minutes after I finished vacuuming, I left the vacuum where it was, grabbed a legal pad and pen, and climbed into a chair to scribble down these thoughts. The vacuum was present but still, and my cat bravely came to me, content to be held and loved in the presence of what had seemed so fearful just moments before.
I wish she could be at peace even when the vacuum is in action. As should I.