The Cat Bowls

Yuck. It's been quite a while, from the looks of things, since anybody cleaned the cat bowls. The dry-food bowl needs a wash, and the steel water bowl needs to have the crud removed from it. We have very hard water--so hard that if I ever wanted a cement front walk, I swear all I'd have to do is to build a sheet-plastic forme, fill it with well water, and let it sun-dry. Anything that regularly deals with water around here needs frequent de-liming. The cat bowl is no exception.

So I put out a clean temporary water bowl for the cats and reached for the white vinegar. Acetic acid plus calcium carbonate yields carbon dioxide plus--would it be water? calcium acetate? both? something else? It's been too long since I took chemistry; I can't remember. Anyway, the lime crust on the side of the bowl started to emit minute bubbles, so the stuff was getting to work. I got on with the rest of the dishes, thinking.

It is a tiny marvel to me that something that looks as formidably budge-proof as a skin of lime on metal should yield to the persuasion of a bit of weak acid. It seems just as marvellous to me, but much more improbable, that my formidable budge-proof screwed-up-edness --my deep-rooted bad habits and negative attitudes, plus damage from the past--could ever yield to the persuasion of God's healing grace. Oh, I don't disbelieve in healing; I know it happens. I believe in healing the way I believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection; I am willing to assent to the possibility, even if I don't experience it myself. I know that healing happens routinely when two people who had been at war with each other make a true and heartfelt peace. I know that it happens when we help a person loosen up an old hardened lump of sorrow and let it ease out into the clean air. I have heard of miraculous physical healings, and I'm willing at the very least to suspend my disbelief in such cases.

But healing for me? Umm, maybe, but I can't see it. The cat's water bowl is stainless steel; the lime on it is merely a superficial encrustation. The stuff that's wrong with me, on the other hand, goes right down into the soft neurochemistry of my brain like roots into earth; how could you tear that stuff loose? I have post-traumatic stress disorder, and the neurochemical traces it leaves in the brain are, as they say, "stable". Maybe Jesus could cast out a mob of demons from the Gadarene demoniac and funnel them into some perfectly innocent pigs, but that was then and this is now. Some demons (apparently) you just have to live with.

Belief isn't quite the same thing as faith. I have absolute faith in the efficacy of white vinegar on cat-bowl lime: I've seen it happen time and time again. Sometimes it's a little quicker (warm water, more vinegar), sometimes it's a little slower, but I know this works, because I've experienced its working. But I've had hands on for healing several times, and yet my own particular crust of psychospiritual crud seems to be hanging in there unaltered. What am I supposed to make of all this?

Do I believe in a God who would turn around and literally undo that damage? Is that what I should be praying for? Perhaps, but if my prayer went unanswered, what sort of God would I be left with--one who was powerful enough to fix me, but didn't feel like it just now? a god without power? or a god without mercy? or a god who cared too little about me, God's child, to get to work on the problem? Or should I take the blame because I don't believe blindly enough, don't pray fervently enough? I'm caught between the evangelicals and the doctors here, each presenting a scenario that utterly excludes the other's. And yet, as a good Anglican, I'm supposed to find some way of straddling this particular fence.

Maybe what I've chosen to believe is (as the secularists would have it) blatant self-deception, Pollyannaism, pie-in-the-sky, you name it; and maybe what I've chosen to believe is (as the Bible-thumpers would have it) an equal and opposite blatant lack of faith in God's power and mercy. But it's the one thing I seem to be able to hold onto, with some sense of inner rightness: God does heal, but in God's own good time. God's time, _kairos_ (I am certain) is as much like our time, _chronos_, as the the most infinitely sophisticated music-of-the-spheres mathematics are like simple arithmetic. _Kairos_ probably includes _chronos_, just as God's justice includes our crude justice, but it is infinitely *more*. Perhaps after death we get to see at least glimpses of God's time, and God's justice, and God's love, and God's healing; and perhaps with that richer understanding, much of what seems inexplicable or paradoxical may be made as plain as day.

I don't know. Meanwhile, I believe in God's healing, and I have faith that I will eventually experience it. In this life would be nice, but I'm not holding out for that. If someone lost a limb, we wouldn't reprove God for not making a new one grow in its place; we would define healing, in that case, as learning to live a new life, not asking for the old life back. Healing isn't the same as getting fixed.

As for the deeper healing, the sort that really does restore what has been broken, God will get around to that when God sees fit, and when God sees fit I will undoubtedly understand why it can't likely happen tomorrow. After all, God's got all eternity to play with. And for the moment, I'll just get on with just getting on.

Back to reality (if that's what it is). The cats' water bowl, when I picked it up again, was innocent of lime as any brand-new steel could be. I gave the food bowl a good scrub (how can cats' noses possibly carry that much dirt?), rinsed and filled both dishes, and set them both in their places on the kitchen floor. Will the cats be grateful? Of course not, They're *cats*.

(for Melissa McK.)

Copyright © 2001 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 08 Sep 2001
[Sabbath Blessings contents page] [Saint Sam's home page] [Comments to web page maintainers]