The Gospel, Told By A Cat Called Jet

You all know the cat, now here’s the tale. (or tail!) Enjoy the trilogy.

Disclaimer: This is not, and isn’t meant to be, allegory. Many parts of my Emotional Support Cat story reflect themes of the gospel, however it is not the complete message of the gospel, nor does the actual gospel ever mention a cat called Jet Hemingway.

Part 1: Adoption

“…he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…”

In the January of 2018, there was a young woman of nineteen years who was stressed, depressed, and barely emerging from a long season of trials.

Hello! That’s me. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about you, Jet Hemingway.

Is this a romance? An adventure? Fairy tale? Memoir? A children’s story? A drama — part tragic, part comedic?

This is all but one thing: fiction.


“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Jet, you were orphaned twice before I met you.

You wandered around the streets as a kitten — alone, malnourished, and flea-bitten.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

A former military man named Mark took you in, and nursed you back to health with his downstairs neighbor, Pam.

He named you, and he loved you, for four years.

But in the December of 2017, he died of pancreatic cancer, and you were alone again.

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

You had been diagnosed with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and were put in a separate room from all the other cats at the shelter. You had probably contracted the virus when some other FIV+ cat bit you hard enough to draw blood, while you were still a kitten on the streets.

Because of this label, humans looking to adopt you were sometimes turned away.

(Watch Gifford’s adoption video for 2018, featuring Jet!)


“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”

I was looking for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) to be my constant companion and friend. I had gone through all the cats in the main room. They were each unique in their own way, and I can still remember many of them by name, but I asked if there were more cats who I could meet and who needed to be saved.

I was shown upstairs to a “FIV only” room with three cats. Barnaby immediately greeted me at the door, licking my face and eager for love. Papa Doll let me pet him too, and was gentle under my touch. And the third cat I introduced myself to was you, Jet Hemingway.

“Before I spoke a word,
You were singing over me.”

You lay on your side in the corner, on a rounded cardboard lounge. I nearly overlooked you, with your dark, black fur, and strange yellow-green eyes. But as I stroked you, I realized; firstly, that you were purring, and secondly, that I wanted to sing to you, and thirdly, that I wanted to speak my love to you in every language that I knew.

I couldn’t have stayed there for longer than twenty minutes. You were so happy, you flipped your paws back and forth; and I was so delighted, I promised you I would come back for you, and sing you more songs.

“He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

When I applied to adopt from your shelter, yours was the only name I needed to put down.


Paperwork, law, and circumstance got in our way. Time, and time again.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.”

Although I already had a letter from my therapist, and I had submitted my request to the Office of Disability Services on time, even before the deadline of November last year, they hadn’t approved us yet.

I waited, and you waited. Your shelter wouldn’t let you go home without their office’s confirmation. I apologized for making them wait, too.

I regularly sent emails to remind them we were waiting.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Forget it, my dad said.

Those long weeks of January ended. February began.

Finally, we got an answer. Yes!


Well, we still had to go through the adoption coordinator.

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

As we waited again, I spent a small fortune, preparing furniture and other supplies, getting ready to welcome you home. I bought the same cardboard lounge you were sitting on when you first met me, too.

In the meantime, you were nearly adopted by another family, but we dodged that bullet.

Several days of waiting, once again. I sent a reminder. And waited for three more days, only to be turned down.

Wait, what?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

At that point, I nearly lost my hope.

I defended us over email. Told them how important this adoption meant to me. How my own mother would support your adoption. How I would even consider changing my decision to study abroad, if it guaranteed that you wouldn’t get displaced.

I really struggled through those days. I could never properly see where I was going, because my eyes were filled with tears. Why were you so far away?

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Father, Thy will be done, I prayed.


Miraculously, on February 7th, the shelter changed their mind, put him on hold for me, and told me to come pick him up.

Feburary 8th was a Thursday. That was the day I took you home, Jet.

In the adoption office, the printer broke down, the wi-fi stopped working, the electronic card reader was jammed. The carrier I brought was too small, so I had to borrow one from the shelter. It was like we had to go through every possible obstacle, even while forking over that $250 adoption fee, and even when the Lyft driver accidentally canceled our ride.

But finally, we got home. You were mine, and I was yours.


“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jet, you were so open to receiving the love I lavished on you.

You would rub yourself against me and purr for hours. Sometimes, you would fall asleep in my hand, or show your belly to me.

After cuddling, I would tease you with toys. At first, you were very mellow, and you weren’t very playful. Gradually, you became more curious and energetic.

I learned later that you were once a loner at home, because your owner was too sick to give you the attention you needed.

No wonder we were made for one another! Here’s my love poured out for you, Jet. Take it, take it all.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

At night, you would fall asleep by my head. During the day, my friends would come visit you. You sat on the cell biology textbook I studied, you listened to the music I put on, you watched me dress and undress. Your ways to me became as familiar as my own.

In the beginning, I thought of you as my angel.
Later, you came to be something more: a beloved child of mine.


Part 2: Learning To Walk

Before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.

Years ago, I was a long distance runner. However, when I moved to China, the pollution was so bad, running outdoors became hazardous to my health. I disliked indoor treadmill workouts, so I took up swimming as a sport instead.

What I missed most about America was the clean air and greenery. Being able to see stars at night; sitting outside and breathing air without guilt.

Life taught me to stop and smell the flowers, when I could get to them. But Jet, you taught me to stop and chew the grass.

The high of our honeymoon ended, but I still wanted to share good things with you. I longed for us to sit outside together, to bask in the sun, and witness the arrival of spring in each other’s company.

So, I was determined to teach you how to walk on a leash.


“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

First Step: Wearing the Harness

Jet, you’re a pretty big boy, especially for a cat. Even when you’re not stretched out, you’re as long as my arm.

I had to hold the bulk of your body in my lap to put on that “large dog harness” for the first time.

It was such a strange feeling for you. You felt paralyzed, suffocated. You lay down on the ground, and it looked like you had simply given up.

You were breathing pretty hard, and you had to purr to soothe yourself. You just wanted the bad feeling to be over, but of course you couldn’t take it off by yourself.

I would take it away after a while, to help you learn nothing bad would happen to you.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Second Step: Coming Outdoors

Oh boy, if I thought the harness made you scared, I wasn’t ready to see you tremble and quake when I first took you downstairs. And the second time. And a few times after that.

I guess you haven’t been out here since your kitten days. You’re completely domesticated. Not a big cat, just a mini panther — a cowardly lion. My heart melted to see you so vulnerable, so childlike. Wide eyes and a rapidly beating heart.

I spoke to you every day, over and over again:

“Do not be afraid; I am with you.”

(Did you know? “Fear not!” is the most repeated command in the Bible. 365 times — once for every day of the year. God doesn’t want us to go a single day without being reminded not to be afraid.)

Habit and security gradually overcame your fear. You still startled when people approached us, and when you heard loud noises, but your confidence grew each and every day. As I worked through my own agoraphobia, you conquered your own.

We became a common sight in the community — a short haired Asian girl and her big black cat — as we established a route, and spent more and more time outside on the daily.

Third Step: Exploration!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

You got bolder, especially at night. But you learned to stay by my side, because there was only so far you could wander without the leash becoming uncomfortable for both of us.

It is said that one doesn’t really walk a cat, rather that one is walked by a cat.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

See, if you walked with me, that was a free will choice. I know you can sprint hard enough to knock the wind out of me, with your powerful little pit bull body.

Sometimes you do that, like when you see a chipmunk. But most of the time, we walk together, bonded by the ties of a willing partnership.

Also, you don’t have the human concept of following a paved path. If you had your way, you would be weaving through bushes, low hanging branches, and places where my big, clumsy feet can’t follow.

If I had my way, you would walk on the straight and narrow paths with me, like my family dog does. We would go at more or less the same pace, side by side. No ten-minute pauses to chomp clumps of grass. We would cross the main road, and wander around the edge of the lake.

Neither of these really worked. We both had to give way to one another.

“Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?”


One night, I came home pretty late. You hadn’t gone outside in a few days, on account of the rain. I decided to take you out for a quick one, before going to bed.

Well, this one wasn’t quick. Suddenly, you wanted to explore beyond your usual territory.

You kept walking, and walking, until we passed Dower House.

Jet, where do you think you were going?

We got pretty close to the main road, but I could tell you didn’t really know where to go from there. I began to guide you back another way, and you trotted quietly by my side. As long as you didn’t disappear into any bushes, I was content with going anywhere.

A hundred meters away from our back door, you decided to make for the woods.

I kept the leash taut, so we trailed around the edge of the trees, until we came to the edge of campus, on Washington Street.

There was a small, empty house on the corner. You took me around, both of us really seeing it for the first time.

You peeked in the basement windows, felt the mossy stepping stones under your feet, climbed over the porch.

You left campus via a narrow gate, and began to walk along Washington Street, which was pretty quiet at that time. But, there was a car who came along, and I thought you had some kind of traumatic flashback. You reversed direction and rushed back to the empty house.

You guided me to the back, where you came across a trail. We followed it for some distance; forest on our left, street downhill on our right.

Eventually, it opened up to a large clearing. Under us, the cars looked small, and above us, stars speckled the spaces between the nighttime clouds.

I stood there for a long moment with you, recognizing that this moment was something special.

“He counts the stars, and calls them all by name.”

Gently, I reminded you it was time to return home. You didn’t completely want to, and you even crashed into a patch of flowers on the way back, but eventually I got to take off my soggy shoes, to kiss you good-night, and to sleep well for the first time in a while.


Part 3: The Prodigal Cat

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Jet, our relationship isn’t perfect. At times, you ignore me, and at other times, I badger you with my attention. Sometimes I take advantage of your gentleness, and I squeeze you too hard, or I pinch you to provoke you. You don’t always want to play, but sometimes you scratch me when you get really into it.

You’re not a perfect cat, and I could be a better human.

This includes the time I crossed a boundary.

Jet, you were rescued originally from the streets. You probably refuse to go near them for a reason.

But I wanted to take you to the lake. It was the perfect weather — ducks would be on the water, people would be walking their dogs, the sunshine was warm but not hot — I wanted to share it with you.

Who knew it could go so wrong?


I carried you in my arms most of the way. Before the footpath intersected the main road, you became frantic. You tried to get out of my hold. You wiggled around until the harness came off your head.

Both of us were scared. I had chased you down without your harness before, and it was hard. But that was away from the road, away from real danger.

I pinned you down under my weight, holding you tightly by the scruff of your neck. You struggled and slipped under my hands, like a fish out of water.

Your snap-off collar even came off, and I stuffed it into my pocket.

I managed to get your harness and leash on once again, but you weren’t happy about it.


On the other side of the road, your demeanor changed. You buried your face in the crook of my arm, and began to moan.

I told you it would be okay, but somehow that didn’t really cut it.

I thought that if I brought you here every day, you might get used to it, and eventually enjoy it, as with the other spots. This was the only reason why I kept going. Also, because I was stubborn.

When we got to the water’s edge, you looked as scared as you did the first time I ever took you outside.

I tried to comfort you, to show you the beauty of the spot I had chosen.

For a while, I even thought that you began to relax.

But both of us heard the jingle of a dog collar approaching.

Jet, you did the one thing I always told you not to do.

You ran into the bushes. I couldn’t follow you there, so all I could do was let go of your leash when I waded in as far as I could go, with my arm stretched out all the way. I couldn’t see you after that.


Oh crap, I lost my cat.

I walked around the perimeter of those cursed bushes, calling out your name.

Jet. JET. Jet! Je-et. JET-JET!

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

I sat down on the roots of the tree trunk, surrounded by soggy moss and goose poop. I had spied you finally, deep within the cluster, and ignoring my cries. You wouldn’t even look at me when I tried to make eye contact.

So I waited. I watched the workers on the other side of the field put up a big white tent for an event. I sat there as runners, dogs, and dog walkers made their way past me. Some looked at me; most didn’t.

Periodically, I would call your name again, and return to check on you, seeing if you would emerge from that unreachable spot.

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”

In the meanwhile, I held your custom engraved collar in my hand, with my phone number etched under your name. I wondered if you would ever return to me, and if you didn’t, how you would be identified without your collar.

I waited for you, forty long minutes.

The only way you were coming out would be if you wanted to. I was not in control of that.

Father God, would you hear my prayer? I know you have given us free will, but would you turn Jet’s heart to return to me, right now. I confess that I didn’t respect the limits of his comfort, and that I exercised my power over him. I fear that he doesn’t want to return home with me ever again. God, I just want to take him home now, more than anything else. Forget the plans that I had for the rest of the day — this is the most important thing on my heart now. Would you give us a fresh start in our relationship? That I would stop sinning by taking advantage of his sweet nature?

Amen. I approached the bushes one last time, surrendering the outcome to God. “Jet? Would you come home now?”

You gave out a little mew, stood up, and began to walk towards me. My heart lifted as you nuzzled your face against my hand, but we weren’t out yet.

You turned away yet again, to a place I couldn’t reach.

But I was patient now. I encouraged and implored you to put your trust in me, forgive me, and receive my love once again.

Once again, you came towards me. My heart skipped, seeing how your leash might snag on any given branch.

But you made it, and I took hold of your leash, and led you out. The leash was no longer an exercise of power, but a bond of trust and forgiveness now.


Jet, do you remember what happened next?

I think you did this because you wanted to avoid the main road, still.

You took me up the hill, through the wilting daffodil plants, through a barrier of trees, and spent the next two hours wandering around and around the Weaver House of Admissions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

All I know is that I dropped my phone somewhere in the tall grass, with my credit card and student ID, and that it was less important to me than getting you home safely.

I couldn’t search for the phone and take care of you at the same.

Most of what I owned in life was on or attached to that phone, but I chose you over all of that. My money accounts, my social media, my contacts, all those apps which were useful and pleasurable to me, my access to the buildings on campus — all of that was compromised.

Later on, I came back and searched for it, searched until the sky became dark, but it was gone for good. I sacrificed my digital presence and access to student life to stay with you, Jet.

Yet, every time I tried to pick you up, or otherwise return you to where we came from, you would refuse, and return to that building.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”

Jet, we were out there for so long, the people setting up the tent got in their truck and drove away, and I had to pee so bad, I had to let go of my human dignity and do it outside.

But I would not leave you. I stayed with you as you wandered, and all the time you procrastinated your return home, I chased after you.

“The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Chases me down, fights until I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.”

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!'”

All the people in the admissions office left, and still you wouldn’t leave. There, I physically began to understand the persistence of God’s love.

I knew I had to do it once or never. I carried you, and in one arm-aching trip, made it down that big hill and across the street.


“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.”

We struggled our way back through Dower lot. It was like you didn’t recognize the place anymore, or that you were too scared to go home. Instead of going back the easy way, you headed straight for a large patch of fallen logs, brambles, saplings, and flowers.

I woke up the next morning with a bruise on my shin and a bug bite swollen to the size of a tangerine on my upper leg because of that trip.

Your leash got caught on all the branches, and I stumbled right behind you. I was probably at risk for breaking my ankles, because I could never see the ground among all the high growing plants, the uneven surfaces of the logs, and other obstacles that appeared with each difficult step.

Soon, you were surrounded by flowers, tall enough to make you disappear from my eye-line, and thick enough for me to feel trapped and far away from you. (I’m just thankful my phone wasn’t lost here!)

Jet! What were you thinking? I’m pretty sure there were bees! Why couldn’t you just walk on the straight and narrow paths? (Answer: Because you were a cat.)

I scooped you up, and waded through a sea of stems, which felt thick as molasses, just to get you out of where you had taken us.

“See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

I emerged out of that pit of land, pummeled but intact, covered in flower petals, bruises, bumps, and most likely urine and goose feces, but with my prize in my hands.

At the end of the day, I got you safe and sound. You know, when we got to the door, I would have needed my swipe ID, but it was unlocked that night? Fortuitously, there was a trustee event in our hall, which turned off the locks temporarily.

Some owners would have punished you for your reckless and exasperating behavior. But me, I rejoiced.

You were tired and hungry. I took off your harness and gave you not one, but two of your favorite treats. I took your collar out of my pocket and put it around your neck once again. I groomed you with a brush, getting the bits of dust from the journey out of your coat. I fed you dinner, and prepared a place for you to lay down on the right hand side of my bed.

Such are the lengths a parent would go to for a child.

“I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done;
Every part designed in a work of art called love.
If You gladly chose surrender, so will I.
I can see Your heart eight billion different ways;
Every precious one, a child You died to save.
If You gave Your life to love them, so will I.”


Postlude

I don’t make this stuff up, folks. God orchestrates my life, and then He tells me to write about it. For me right now, this is a season of harvest, where many of the things that have been happening in my life are now ripe and ready for reaping.

Even through my relationship and testimony with my cat, God has demonstrated his steadfast love for us.

At some point during each part of the trilogy, I felt God speak to me, telling me I had to remember that moment and write about it later. It wasn’t until the third movement that I knew the words were ready to flow out. That was yesterday.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the first two letters of his first name, J-E, and the first two letters of my last name, S-U, spell J-E-S-U. His presence daily is a reminder that God is ever-present in my life today.

Tomorrow, June 8th, will be our fourth month-versary! It’s amazing how much we have gone through together, already.

How have you seen God working in your own life, lately? My encouragement for you is to dig deep today, and ask God to reveal how He has walked beside you all this time. Even if you don’t know Him yet, he is sitting on the other side of the adoption, just waiting for his love to reach you.

Thank you so much for reading it to the end.

Be blessed,

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3 thoughts on “The Gospel, Told By A Cat Called Jet

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