Last weekend the Christmas decorations came down. I was definitely ready, but not for the obvious reasons. I love Christmas decorations, and I’m never in a hurry to see them packed away. But, our cat Mina takes some of the pleasure out of them – well, the tree, at least.
Mina has a fixation with being under the Christmas tree. If it was just that she wanted to sit calmly under it, then I don’t think we would be so concerned about it. When Steven was a toddler, mama cat Smokey used to love to escape from his over-anxious little hands by hiding under the tree behind all the gifts. Smokey is a petite, dainty cat. She walks silently and is rarely destructive in any way. So, we had no problems with her being under the tree. Her daughter Mina, however, is just the opposite. Mina plows through life like the proverbial bull in the china shop. And, she’s not content with just resting calmly under the tree. She wants to climb the limbs (which her weight would break) and knock off ornaments. She wants to be right on top of gifts (many of which her weight would crush).
So, our rule is that there are to be no cats under the tree. For the past three Christmases or so, we’ve used a spray bottle to reinforce that rule. If a cat goes under the tree, he or she is sprayed with water. Jack and Smokey learned the rule very quickly and have pretty much decided that the tree isn’t worth the effort. Mina, however, is another story. Every year she seems to be magnetically drawn to that tree. This year was no exception.
The funny thing is that this year Mina found a spot that would allow her to be as close to the tree as possible without actually being under it. She seemed to know right where to lie down to avoid being sprayed, and somehow that magical spot brought her great satisfaction.
One morning, though, she decided to take a bath in that spot. As she moved and bathed, she ended up under the tree, bumping the ornaments. She remained oblivious, convinced that she was still in her “safe” spot.
I didn’t spray her that morning. It wasn’t worth the effort to me. But, I did think about how easy it was for her to “accidentally” end up under that tree simply by her choice to locate herself so close to a spot of danger. Smokey and Jack never ended up even remotely under the tree because they chose other favorite spots throughout the house. But Mina couldn’t handle completely giving up the tree. Because of that choice, she ended up “sinning” just through the normal course of life.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. There are things that we know are wrong. But, we flirt with them. We convince ourselves that it’s okay to be close as long as we don’t fully indulge. We know that there is a point we must not cross. But, we also know that to set up a fence 100 yards behind that point leads to legalism. Since we so greatly want to avoid legalism, we instead go the opposite direction – we live right on the edge. We stay right beside the tree.
What is going to happen when the natural course of our lives bumps us into the tree? I guarantee that happens. When we choose to live right next to the things that we should completely avoid, at some point we will find that we’ve crossed the line. What does that do to us? To our relationship with our Lord? To our influence on others? To our witness?
What if we were to instead just live close to the Lord? What if we were to ignore not only the line right near the temptation, but also any fences that legalism could put up? What if our focus were truly and simply to be as close to Christ as absolutely possible? I guarantee if we did that, we’d never “accidentally” bump that tree.
Last weekend, Mina’s temptation was removed. No more tree means no more lines to accidentally cross. What about us? We can remove our own temptation by being more concerned with being close to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than to anything else this world has to offer. May we hunger to do so.