Eleanor, the female cat, had been living in a foster home, with a foster mom and foster cat siblings. Timber, the male cat, had been in a store window display while he waited for adoption. His siblings had been with him at the store, but they had all been adopted before him. We brought Timber and Eleanor home on the same day, but were warned that they would take time to get comfortable, to trust us, and to get along with each other. So, we were prepared for some things, but surprised by others.
While both kittens were timid when we came home, especially Timber, who quickly hid under the bed and did not come out for hours to use his litter box or eat any food. It took over a week before he would come out to eat regularly. However, within hours, Eleanor was out, playing and exploring like she owned the house. We had been told she did not like to snuggle yet, within hours, she was sleeping in my mother’s lap. She had no problems eating, finding her litter box, or playing with her toys. It was awesome to see her adapt so quickly. We expected Timber’s behavior, but the surprise was Eleanor. We had to wonder, “Why the differences?”
As Christians, we might have an idea as to why both cats adapted so differently. We know that the main ingredient, especially in the first years of life for a child (or animal in this case), is the love and safety they get at home. It is the contact they have with others, from whom they feel loved, get fed and are soothed. Those building blocks of safety enable healthy growth, a safe foundation from which we can venture out and explore, like Eleanor. Without that firm foundation, life is a lot scarier, uncertain and can even be paralyzing, like it was for Timber.
As humans, we were made to be loved, designed and formed in God’s loving image, including our minds and emotions. Yet, in a sin-filled world, it is easy to forget our love-based creation and design. Unfortunately, we cannot escape the consequences of sin, and not everyone has the blessing of a safe, healthy, early home environment. We must be careful not to blame others for their environments, because none of us can control the family into which we are born. Also, if we don’t have opportunities for learning and change, it can be a lot harder to create your own healthy home later on. Change is possible with God and a lot of hard work.
Think about these issues in your own life. How did your home environment growing up, shape you? What would you like to emulate, and what would you like to change? If our goal is to have our homes be “a little piece of heaven on earth,” we must better understand God’s love, trust, patience and long-suffering, and work to be like Him. May we all be able to trust like Eleanor, who adapted so quickly to the changes in her life, in part because of her firm foundation. May God’s love be our foundation and guide!
Melissa Ponce-Rodas is an assistant professor of Psychology at Andrews University. She and her husband, Segundo, have twin boys, Samuel and Jonathan. Her research and advocacy revolve around the intersections of religion and domestic violence.