There’s a fat cat that lives in my neighborhood. She walks slowly and deliberately down the street and through my yard, jingling as she goes due to the bell she wears around her neck. My husband and I have frequently watched her disappear into the tall grass bordering the field behind our home, and we’ve chuckled imagining her futile attempts to catch a mouse—announcing her presence to all creatures in the vicinity with the ringing of her bell and lacking the speed or energy to pounce should she actually encounter one. “Lazy cat!”, we tease her. “You need to lay off the Fancy Feast!”
One day recently I was checking my mailbox when I heard the familiar jingling. The fat cat was plodding towards me at her usual leisurely pace, this time having come from the tall grass and heading back towards the heart of the subdivision. “Hi, pretty kitty,” I said, walking towards her, noticing as I approached that she carried something in her mouth—a fluffy toy, perhaps, with a red ribbon trailing from it. “Whatcha got?”, I inquired, stopping in my tracks when I suddenly realized what she’d “got.” It was a mouse!—a live one—or at least it had been alive recently. It was quite dead now, it’s plump little body clenched tightly between feline jaws.
The fat cat took no notice of my dismay but instead continued purposefully on her way, presumably traveling to a location selected especially for the devouring of her prey. It occurred to me that I’d misjudged her. Despite my belief that she was simply an over-domesticated pet, she knew who she was—a huntress, wild and free and fierce, able to get the job done any time she needed a mousey snack.
This was followed by the revelation that my misunderstanding of her and even taunting her had affected her in no way. At all. She lived out her true identity in the face of opposition, paying no mind to my pointing finger, neither slowing her pace in shame because I doubted her nor quickening her pace in an effort to prove me wrong. She remained single-minded and focused, and she was effective in accomplishing her goal, much to the chagrin of the poor mouse.
I want to be more like the fat cat--in the idealistic sense, that is. Like all humans and women especially, I sometimes struggle with issues of identity, particularly when I’m misunderstood or opposed. At times I’ve succumbed to the temptation to shrink back from a challenge because someone doubted me or to strive to prove myself to the world and prove my critics wrong. God has been working on these people-pleasing tendencies in me over the course of the past year, and I’ve surrendered to His hands-on lessons with all the grace of the fat cat. Nevertheless I’m learning to listen for His voice instead of the voices of those around me and to desire His pleasure more than theirs.
The single most helpful tool on my God-pleasing quest has been, of course, His Word, specifically those passages that tell me who I am as a follower of Jesus, woman who fears the Lord, and someone who calls on God. There are many such passages of Scripture, but here are several that have been meaningful to me lately, stated as affirmations:
I am approved.
I am a worker.
I have no need to be ashamed.
I am a truth-handler.
2 Timothy 2:15, as stated in Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love
I am bold and stouthearted.
I am clothed with strength and dignity.
I can laugh at the days to come.
What would happen if I really lived like this was my true identity? I suspect it would change everything. I think I’d be like the fat cat, doing my thing and still getting a lot of weird looks and maybe even chuckles or outright disdain, but nevertheless living grounded, purposefully, and effective.
Is your identity rooted in who others say you are or who God says you are? How can you take one step away from people-pleasing and closer to God-pleasing today?