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On Black Cats and Image Bearing     

The black kitty at the entrance to her home

For the past several weeks a black, long-haired cat has been roaming a trail I regularly run. The trail meanders through a small wetland forest area behind my community library. She is plenty friendly. Every time I come running around a bend to find her, she immediately tilts her head and makes playful curly-cues with her body inviting me to stop and pay her attention. Of course, I never do. My watch is ticking minutes. I also have a healthy respect for the fickleness of cats. Instead, I nod my head and say good morning as I run by, but that’s the end of it.

Someone, however, has not made “running by” the end of it. Last week, a food bowl appeared at one end of the trail’s boardwalk section. Every morning since, there has been either food or water in the bowl. On Tuesday, as I ran around the boardwalk’s bend, I saw a woman with a wet rag in hand, tending to the dish; a water bottle and small Ziploc bag of cat food on the ground beside her.

“Ah,” I said as I approached her. “You are the secret care taker. Thank you!”

The woman looked up. “Oh, I just want the kitty to have a home,” she said through a smile that reflected both urgency as much as joy. I smiled back, thanked her again and continued on my way.

I don’t know if it was the sincerity of her voice or the words themselves, but I spent the rest of my run imagining the library’s wetland habitat as the truly the kitty’s home. The ferns and late-summer flowers were no longer simply wild plants popped up in low, swampy space. They were house plants and home decor. The low, winding boardwalk was no longer my running path, but her hallway. One end of the boardwalk was her kitchen (where the woman put the food bowl) The bench at the other end, was her bed. My run transformed from a regular morning run to a VIP open house tour.

But there’s more. By the woman’s words and her work, I was ushered into a more robust and beautiful understanding of what it means to be an “image bearer.”

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over (or stewardship of) the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  -Genesis 1.26

My run that day was more than a run. It was turning the corner of a dark hallway to discover a beautiful sunlight room. Or, walking through the wardrobe and finding Narnia on the other side. By my library neighbor’s image bearing (whether or not she realized it), I was gifted with a second sight. I have not run through that space since then without a fresh imagining, and desire to bring forth something beautiful as well.

A small offering of words strung into images making old ideas new…

…with the hope that the offering—however dim it is—yet reflects the truly Beautiful One in whose image we are all made. And who, by His goodness, His truth, and His beauty, is inviting us into His ongoing work of truly making all things beautiful; all things new.

To include reclaiming the wilderness–for cats and humans alike–and making it into home.