Three of us shared a garage apartment in Atlanta. It was small and crowded. The kitchen was smaller than a closet. To defrost the refrigerator required pulling it out of the kitchen and into the so-called living room. We were fortunate to have found a place in walking distance of Emory University. There, in the middle of urban life, we were sometimes visited by a fat possum. We learned to save our scraps and put them out for food. In the walls of the building were several nests of ground squirrels and chipmunks. They were pretty quiet unless they got into a family squabble.
In the front yard of our humble abode, one day, all of us watched a cat and mouse game being played out under the trees. A big yellow cat was toying with a mouse. He had caught the terrified creature nearby and brought him to the yard to play. Apparently the cat wasn’t hungry. He just wanted to play. He would turn the mouse loose and let it quiver between his spread apart front feet. If the mouse indicated a preference for freedom, the cat would simply place a big paw on the tail of the mouse so it couldn’t go anywhere. From time to time the cat would pull the mouse in closer.
We watched for over an hour, (seminary students don’t have much else to do for entertainment), and that cat never ate the mouse. Eventually the cat, tired of his game, and let the mouse go. Then the cat arrogantly prissed away.
I feel like that mouse sometimes; all cooped up and expecting all the bad things that can happen in situations such as that. When I try to break free, some unknown force seems to pull me right back into danger. Then, when I least expect it, the force relents and I can get back on track.
The Apostle Peter must have felt that way when, in spite of his best intentions, he found himself denying his Lord. He was caught by a force which was beyond him. He had promised to be loyal and faithful. He really believed he could. But when the chips were down, so was his faith and loyalty. That force had hold of him. He was scared. It was difficult to act in a normal way. But that force did not have permanent power over him. Like the cat and the mouse, that force was just toying with him. And at the first opportunity, the Apostle regained his resolve and inner strength. He promised to take care of the flock of the Lord. And he did.
The church began to grow because Peter assumed leadership. He took advantage of his freedom from the negative force. His faith grew and his commitment grew. And when he preached his first sermon, some three thousand persons were won for the kingdom. And all of them were baptized that very day. My mind’s eye can still see that little mouse between the paws of the big cat. I don’t know what eventually happened to either one of them. The cat left and was seen no more. The mouse left and, as far as I know, enjoyed his freedom to its fullest extent.
The whole point of the story is, don’t let the cat keep the mouse locked up too long. Use your freedom in a positive way. When you are set free from your spiritual depression, enjoy the moment. Know that God is calling you to something better and more positive.
Bill Lassiter is a retired United Methodist minister and a member at Holly Avenue UMC in South Pittsburg, TN.