There is a question and we have all heard it. “Who let the cat out of the bag?” And we all know what it means – sort of. But to this very day, I have never heard anyone ask the deep and penetrating question that this phrase begs us all to ask. Why in the heck was the cat in the bag? And who in the world was so dumb as to put it there? Well, this week I found out the answer to both of these questions – the hard way.
So, we have this cat. She is beautiful, but way more importantly she catches moles and mice, which makes her more beautiful. Our other older cat had gotten tired of catching critters but this young one has re-sparked his passion for catching the troublesome varmints. Problem with the beautiful young cat is that she is a she and three months ago had her first litter of kittens, 5 baby kittens – not acceptable. So, I found the cheapest place to get her spayed, and the day has arrived. Be there at 8 AM.
Because I found the cheapest place, it is definitely not the closest. This cat is an outdoor cat and she hates it even when inside our house, and I know she will freak out in the car, and so just before 7 AM I ask the question. “Janie, what can I put this cat in so it kills me not in the car?” Janie goes downstairs and comes back with an athletic bag. “This should do the trick. Just put her in, zip it mostly shut – so she can breathe – and go.”
So, as I shoved our kitty into the Adidas bag, it dawned on me. “So …. this is how the cat got into the stupid bag.” I left the zipper about a half inch open so there would be ample air to breathe.
I go out to the car put this very loud and disgruntled bag on the passenger side floor and I am off. Up to this point in my life, I have never seen an athletic bag jump from the floorboard to the seat, but two minutes into the drive and the very angry bag has leapt onto the seat next to me. I reach over to put the bag back onto the floor and the bag scratches me. Ouch. A jumping bag with vicious claws popping out in all directions and only 45 minutes more on the road.
I manage to pin the bag down by hooking the bag handles on the lever that moves the seat back and now all I have a roaring bag of anger. After 10 minutes of listening to this “Chinese Opera in a bag”, I start to feel sorry for the poor thing. The Opera music is slowly dying as the cat gets used to her new life. Or, wait……… I think. Is the music dying because the cat is? Is she getting enough air? Of course, she is, I justify myself. You can breathe through a zipper! Can’t you? And there is a half inch unzipped. Plenty of air! Right? She is awfully quiet. Oh, my gosh, what if I kill her? I feel sick. I start sweating. I go into “save my precious kitty” mode. And I unzip the zipper an extra two and a half inches for some added oxygen levels.
Now looking back, I can see clearly what was happening. The evil kitty had it all planned to make me think she was dying so she could escape. Within 30 seconds that cat made the 2 ½ inch opening into five inches and was on my lap. But that was not enough. To her, our Honda Fit is like a big athletic bag and she wants out of it as well. And the only way out is, of course, up Jonathan’s body and arm and shoulder to the window. She sees everything going by her at 60 mph and unimpeded claws go into shoulder. I grab her. She grabs me back with claws and I try to put the panicked crazed kitty back into the bag. After what seems to be way too long, I decide it is not best to be in a cat fight while driving in traffic, for it gave kitty the clear advantage. So, I pull over to level the playing field. I get kitty back into the bag with just a half inch of unzipped breathing room. I nurse my bleeding wounds, and I am back on the road.
But kitty had learned something very important. That very little opening at the end of the bag is the way out. Exploit it.
10 minutes later she had unzipped it and was coming my way, but I pinned her to the seat with my right hand as I attempted to drive and shift with my left. Not good driving. I pull over a second time. This time securing the zipper so it could not and would not be unzipped. Victory.
Later that day, I go to pick her up. The OSU Vet student greets me as I step to the head of the line. “And the name of your pet is??” she inquires. “Kitty”, I embarrassingly reply.
“Oh Yes”, she says. “Kitty Martin. Let me tell you about Kitty Martin. She chewed her way out of the cardboard kennel box and escaped while here. A perfect kitty sized hole. We put her in a new box, but you might be careful on your way home especially if it is a long drive.”
I thanked her and took screaming kitty out to the car and put her in the back seat and began the drive home. The race was on. Could I get home before I had a cat on my head?
I glance back in the rearview mirror from time to time and see her white and gray paws swatting at the air outside the breathing holes in the box. I hear the box shake and rattle and I drive faster. Please, Lord, let me get home.
Phew. I make it. And not a moment too soon. Her whole head is sticking out of one of the greatly enlarged breathing holes. Another five minutes and Kitty Martin would have freed herself and I would have paid a high price.
But alas – even though it was technically a box this time – it was I who finally let the cat out of the bag.
Lesson learned: Cat’s weren’t designed to be put in bags. They don’t like them. They don’t breathe well. They can’t catch moles there. Put them there and they will fight you to get out.
This is the same lesson I have been learning about people. They were not designed to be put into bags. But this is the very thing too many leaders want to do. Husbands try to control their wives. Fathers and mothers try to control their teenagers. Bosses – their employees. Pastors -their congregations. I recently read a great quote from Beth Moore. “You will lose the heart of those you insist on controlling. You may keep the empty shell of relationship depending on their level of devotion, dependency or dysfunction but you will not keep their heart. Affection has a God-ordered allergy to tyranny. It grows where it’s free to.”
We try so hard to put the cat into the bag, but it does not work. They will eventually find their way out and then find out they are unloved and unaccepted for doing so, and they end up fighting resentment and bitterness toward those who insist they stay there. It creates a culture of oppression. The very opposite of love.
God wants us to love others by serving them. As leaders, you and I are called to help others discover and to reach toward their highest God given potential. And that is not found in the bag of my vision and personal preferences attached to it. So Father, Mother, Husband, Pastor, Boss, do yourself a favor: Don’t put the cat in the bag. If it is already there – let the cat out of the stupid bag! Ever since I did, Kitty Martin has been very kind to me indeed!!