My mother called me “mere-hearted, too sensitive.” And she was right… I was “mere-hearted” when I was six. I am still and will, I am certain, be “mere-hearted” until I die. This was never so true as many years ago, when a litter of kittens was born under the porch steps on my grandmother’s farm. One of them had an obvious, deformity in her back legs and so I held true to my mere-hearted moniker. I immediately took to the white kitten and she to me. I called her “Snowball” and became her nursemaid. I was too young to understand my older cousin when he snipped, “That cat has a snowball’s chance in …” My aunt elbowed him in the ribs before he could finish.
I wrapped Snowball in soft dish towels and fed her from a bottle. Her mother had rejected her. She was the runt of the litter and couldn’t fight her way through the other five kittens to nurse. I, however believed Snowball could be healed and I was vigilant. I would love her and God would heal her. I stroked her back. I smoothed her fur. She slept in my lap for most of the two weeks I was on the farm but to my bitter disappointment, she wasn’t getting better. She could not stand, let alone run or climb like her brothers and sisters.
When I said my prayers at night, I prayed with all the fervor a six year old girl could muster, “Jesus, please make Snowball all better! PLEASE! Amen! ”
When it came time for us to go home, I said a tearful good-bye to Snowball. I was assured when I came back to the farm at Christmas, all would be well. I prayed every night for her.
Fast forward to December. After five months of waiting and five agonizing hours of “are we there yet?” my dad drove our station wagon over the cattle guard and up to his mother’s house. I could hardly wait to free myself from the back seat and find Snowball. I spotted her lounging lazily on the back porch. When I called her, she ran to me. Yes, she ran to me.
My kitten, now a mischievous “teenager” and I had a wonderful time over the next few days, chasing fallen leaves and climbing trees. She followed my brother and me to the pond. He fished and teased us with worms and baited hooks but Snowball sat calmly beside me while I made a pretend picnic for her and my dolls. Snowball wasn’t terribly thrilled about wearing a fancy hat but she did drink water from a tiny teacup.
Dear Reader please stop shaking your head. Within a few months, my parents came clean and told me the truth that Snowball had not survived, that my grandparents had found another, close as they could get, white kitten to replace her and had mercifully let me believe Snowball had been healed. Many a goldfish has assumed the identity of another to spare a grieving little boy or girl. It’s what grownups do.
After Christmas and much pleading, we took “Snowball” home to our house. She was my constant companion over the next ten years. I loved her so much. She watched from her pillow perch as my bedroom walls morphed from teddy bears and rainbows to teen heart throbs and memory boards. She bore witness to all the charms of childhood, all the mayhem of middle school and all the soap opera drama of sophomore year. She was there for slumber parties and sleepovers. Birthdays and bad dreams. She was there for long phone calls and forgotten homework. But one sad morning Snowball simply did not wake and we buried her in the field next to our house.
I wouldn’t trade one moment of the years I spent with Snowball, the original or the copy.
But it got me thinking. I know that God is not a slight of hands magician. He does not trick us. He does not lie; he cannot. But isn’t it possible that sometimes he gives us a blessing better than the one we thought we had? The one we thought we wanted? The one we lost? The one we chose to let go?
Maybe the first love, who chose another and broke your heart, helped you know true love when he finally did come knocking.
Maybe the tiny miracle, the one that grew inside you and was born too soon, showed you just how precious all life is no matter how small.
Maybe the house that was denied you made you wait for the one that really was perfect, a home for a lifetime.
Maybe the marriage that broke apart bore beautiful children and made enough memories to fill any void.
Maybe the job you lost led to another one in a whole different direction.
We can never know what God has in store for us. We may think we see it and want it with all our might. We may nurse it and pray for it and try desperately to keep it alive. It may, however, be the right thing for a season, only a season. God may have bigger plans, grander schemes. What he gives us instead is sure to be beyond our greatest imaginings.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20