Strays

Waking up in the night with my infant daughter, the thought came in like a stray animal, hung around the back porch looking at me for something—“Does God exist?” The next night it brought me “What if the church is just an organization” and then “the bible, just a book?” Like a stray, I know not to feed those thoughts. My husband tells me the metaphor of the dogs: feed the dog that you want to win in the fight. But it isn’t a fight—I know the thoughts are wrong. But they keep coming around, here and there, and now and then I set out some food and now and then I sit with them awhile.

We have a stray cat lounging in the backyard most days now. Our home, a recently bought fixer-upper about half way “fixed,”  has a yard in shambles. A pool that needs to be filled in, bushes grown to the height of trees, a screened in porch only half-screened. The kids love it—they pluck up the puffed out dandelion seeds, the wildflowers, the occasional surprising lily or daffodil springing up from a forgotten garden plot. Our old gray tomcat, Waldo, was always one to take to other cats, and moves aside for the stray to eat his fill at the food bowl. Black-brown with dirt, with large emerald eyes, we keep telling each other he must’ve belonged to someone once. He has gotten comfortable enough with us to put his paws on the sliding glass door, to meow when the bowl is empty. We suppose he doesn’t belong to anyone now—not fixed, groomed, collared. Our neighbor says people are always dumping animals in the field behind our home, so we keep feeding him, unsure if anyone else will.

Maybe it started when my daughter, four years old, said it was funny that the Bible is a book but we do what it says. Or when reading a book of biographies, I come across a missionary woman who was miraculously saved from rape and abuse at the hands of soldiers in a foreign country, miraculously saved dozens of times, before she was victimized again and again, at the hands of these same soldiers. Where was God? What if “blessing” is just luck?

I let my doubts lounge by our broken down swimming pool that can’t hold water, let them hang around the cat that is our own, that we raised from a kitten. My husband tells me don’t feed strays, but what little faith I do have tells me that the Gospel can hold up to a few stray doubts slinking around the back of my mind this month and that ultimately those doubts don’t have a home here.

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