Updated: Sep 29, 2020
I have a sweet little cat named Emma. She’s dark and stripy, and we love her.
My husband got her for me as a wedding present back in 2011, even though he’s always been more of a dog person. So naturally, she loves him most. But on days he’s at work, she cuddles me, her tolerable second favorite. Many times my kids and I playfully imagine what she’s “saying” to us. It helps us relate to her, but there is some truth to it. We get to know our animals’ mannerisms. We can know when they’re feeling happy, stressed, tired, hungry, or playful.
As we spend time with the people around us, even our pets, we can know what they're thinking. I would tell my kids, “Oh, I don’t think Emma wants to be petted right now.” Or “Emma is worried about you,” as she cuddles them when they’re sick. Or “Emma is scared, so let’s quiet down.” My kids always respond with, “How do you know!?” And one day, I got to thinking about how we know. Cat’s don’t talk. They don't have mood revealing eyebrows. As shown in the cartoon, there is a pretty standard “tail language” among cats, but pet owners don’t usually learn this through a diagram, we learn it from time spent with our animal. In John 10:1-19, Jesus explains how this concept compares to our relationship with him.
“...the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” John 10:3-5
To know what Jesus is leading us to, what he wants for us, and wants us to do, we have to recognize his voice. Sheep need a shepherd to know where to find food. They trust him to keep them safe from predators. They spend all of their time with him, dependent on him, trusting him fully with their lives. If they forget his voice and wander off, they will simply not survive. So it is vital for them to not only recognize his voice but to always be ready to listen to it and follow. What we tend to forget is if we don’t recognize Jesus’ voice and follow it, we are just as lost as a lone sheep among wolves.
So, how do we begin to learn his voice? For us cat owners, we can look at graphs like the one above and learn from other people’s experiences. In this scenario, this is a bit like the Bible. It gives us a clue on how Jesus typically talks to other people so we can recognize him when he talks to us. But it’s just as important to experience it yourself. You can study a cat language diagram as much as you want, but if you never interact with a cat, you won’t truly be able to understand them. And just like every cat is different, Jesus speaks to each of us in different ways. (I’m starting to realize I’m comparing our Lord to a cat, so please don’t take this comparison too seriously.) But really, it comes with intentional time spent with Jesus, through prayer, through study, through journaling, bringing him into every moment. Just time with him. There’s no formula, no secret code on learning to hear him and recognize his voice. It takes repeated exposure and time spent with him. Don’t take a passive role in your relationship with Jesus. His grace is free, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put effort into knowing him. Whether we admit it or not, we are like sheep, and our survival depends on knowing our shepherd’s voice.
Ashlee is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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