My parents' cat hates me. Whenever I visit she stays well clear of me, giving off the "don't even think of petting my glorious fur," vibe. When I ignore the signals, succumbing to my need to connect with her, my hand inevitably gets shredded. It causes me great angst, and it causes her monumental annoyance.
Which is why it's not terribly hard to believe that I came to the conclusions I did last night at my parents' house. Well, maybe it is, but at I feel a little haughty about it.
It took a while for me to get to sleep. I was in my sleeping bag because whenever I stay as a guest for only a night or two I like to simply bring my sleeping bag so sheets don't have to be washed. Besides, being in my sleeping bag is kind of bringing a part of my home with me. Anyway....I was woken in the middle of the night. I kid you not, it felt like a cat walked on my sleeping bag. But when I opened my eyes there was nothing there! I tried to explain it away, "Oh, my sleeping bag must've shifted, oh, you didn't just feel that." But I was positive I had felt it, and I was positive that it felt like cat paws on my sleeping bag. It couldn't have been a bag shift because when I awoke I was as still as Mt. Rushmore, and I knew no other mammal was in the room because the door was firmly shut.
So, my conclusion? "Oh my God my parents have a ghost cat!!"
It was the only logical conclusion I could come to. A cat had walked on my sleeping bag + a cat wasn't there = invisible ghost cat. Right?
My mind went a little haywire then, imaging what a ghost cat would look like, and I got all this adrenaline worked up. Ferocious and evil looking was at the top of the list. Yes, yes, it could be meek and could be the ghost of a wonderful, well-loved, cat who was forgotten to be looked after by the neighbors when the owner was out of town and starved to death and occasionally visits people on its quest for love. But my fear leaped over the Hallmark-version cat ghost and it took a long time for me to get back to sleep.
Unbelievably (as if anything is believable in this story), it happened again!! As I felt the sensation of cat paws on my sleeping bag the second time my brain screamed as my emotions jolted awake, "See, it's true! And I'm never going to be able to sleep in this room again!" When my eyes opened this time, though, I caught sight of a cat form fleeing from the bed.
Not a ghost cat. My parents cat. The cat who hates my guts, the cat who takes pleasure in drawing my blood, had pulled the biggest cat prank ever. She had gotten herself locked in my room and taken her skillful, cunning, manipulative cat-time to twist me into a loony mess. The feline guild of Oregon has just nominated her for "most innovative act of retribution."
Looking back on it for all of these 15 hours or so, it seems to strange that I really thought my parents had a ghost cat. But it wasn't at the time. The facts: 1) I expect to be hated by cats in that house, 2) I didn't have my best thinking capacities in a dark room in the middle of the night, 3) I really do believe that ghosts might exist. I've never considered a ghost cat before, but it certainly made sense last night. The fact that I decidedly did NOT know was that 4) my parents' cat would actually let herself be locked in with me.
A lot of things can make perfect sense, a lot of things can be believed as "logical" conclusions when we don't have all the facts. A lot of things can be looked at as absolutely insane in the after-thought, or when more facts come in. The thing is, though, sometimes we don't have access to all the facts, and sometimes we make conclusions from a series of other "facts" that renders us incapable of calling a fact a fact.
We can do this with ghost cats (okay, I can do this with ghost cats), we can do this with academics, we can do this with parenting, with statistics, with investments, with career choices, and yes, we can do this especially with theology, belief systems, and Scripture interpretation.
I was humbled a bit last night by jumping to a strange conclusion and then experiencing the emotions as if it were true, because for me, at the time, it was. My desire to embrace mystery when it comes to things to God is due in large part to my suspicion that I can actually discern "right" answers when I have a three-and-a-half pound brain and God is, well, God.
Do I know what happens to people after they die? Do I know how salvation works? Do I know exactly what happened cosmically at the moment of Jesus' death? Do I know what on earth is going on - really - in the act of communion? Do I know how to explain Scripture that disagrees with itself?
For me the Rapture is a ghost cat. For me a church that only welcomes certain people is a ghost cat. And these ideas/theologies/Scripture interpretations remain very logical conclusions for many. I'm positive that I believe in all sorts of ghost cats, but either I'm so invested in them, or they are so taken for granted that it's almost impossible for me to see a live cat, and so change my conclusions.
It's a good thing we've got grace to receive from God, and grace to give to others. The trick is knowing how and when to call a ghost cat a ghost cat for others when you do know it's a false conclusion. Some of those ghost cats can simply live on without harming anyone, and some, well, they can do undue damage. The other trick is having enough humility to know that we all see ghost cats, and live within that reality.