When I gave God a deadline, I learned a vital lesson about praying with a demand.
In my rural area I often see barn cats hunting in the fields. In exchange for keeping the rodent population down they get food and shelter from farmers, but they aren’t comfortable with people. If they wander onto my property, they run off as soon as they see me.
One morning, however, I found a cat curled up beneath the shrubs in front of my house. It was pregnant, a pretty little gray cat with black stripes. I brought out some food, which the cat gobbled up. She let me pet her and rubbed against me, purring.
This was no barn cat. It was a family pet. I called everyone in the neighborhood, but no one reported a missing cat. I tried the local police, the animal shelter, several veterinarians–with no success. It seemed probable she had been abandoned by her owners.
It was also obvious that she was going to deliver her kittens very soon. What was I to do? I couldn’t bring her into my home because she might be diseased. And although the days were warm, the nights were cold.
At sunset she let me pick her up and I took her into my garage. She curled up on a pile of old towels and at that moment she went into labor.
For the next few hours I watched in awe as the cat delivered three kittens. From what I could see they were not only alive, but vigorous.
“As soon as you can, start picking them up and petting them,” my veterinarian said when I called him. “That way, when you want to find homes for them they’ll be ready to live with people.”
Find homes for three kittens? I hadn’t thought of that.
I called the animal shelter, but I was told if I brought them in they would have to be put to sleep immediately.
“It’s the way it is,” the woman told me. “The newborns and mother might have diseases our other animals could catch.” There was a sadness in her voice. “If you keep them for six weeks, when they finish nursing, we can take them in then.”
Six weeks, I thought. But maybe I can find them homes before that. My house isn’t large and I already had two cats and one dog, so I carried the mother and her kittens down to the basement and piled newspapers and old towels in a box for a nesting place.
Of course, my other animals were curious, and it took some athletic maneuvering to get past them every time I used the basement door.
“Lord, I’ve got six weeks,” I prayed. “I need all the help You can give me.”
I called everyone I knew and passed the word. I ran an ad in the local paper. I even told people I didn’t know well and asked them to tell their friends.
I kept getting the same response. People who loved cats already had one or more. Surely, I told myself, someone will come forward. No one did.
As the weeks passed I felt uneasy. Was God going to abandon the animals just the way some human had? I couldn’t believe that. But the kittens–two females and a male–were getting bigger, learning how to jump and climb, and I couldn’t keep them in the basement much longer.
My veterinarian examined them and gave them rabies shots, so I knew they were healthy. But when I called the animal shelter they had bad news for me. They were overwhelmed with kittens; they couldn’t promise to keep them for long. I can’t let them be put to sleep.
On the last day of the sixth week I reminded God that we had come to our deadline yet nothing was happening. And then it hit me: I had given God an ultimatum. I had more or less told Him I would have faith in Him for six weeks and no more. I was so ashamed.
“Forgive me, Lord,” I prayed. “I know You will help me find homes for these little ones. However long it takes, I’ll look after them. A sense of peace came over me. For the first time I allowed the kittens and their mother to follow me upstairs.
I trusted my very friendly dog and cats to accept them, and after a bit of curious sniffing they did. When the kittens were eight weeks old a friend of a friend called and asked if she could see them. When she did, she fell in love with them and took one of the females home with her.
Two days later I had a call from a young couple whose cat had died a month earlier. “We miss him so much,” the woman said. They took the rambunctious young male with them.
By the next week the third kitten went home with the young man who delivers my fuel oil. That left the mother cat, whom I decided to keep.
Like my other animals,she wasn’t young and spent most of her time sleeping. But then I had a call from a friend’s neighbor.
“I’m getting on in years and so is my cat,” the woman told me. “We need some company but neither of us can keep up with a kitten. I was wondering if you would let me have the mother.”
These events happened years ago, and all four cats are doing well. As for me, I learned a valuable lesson. Now when I need God’s help I simply ask, knowing He will come to my aid. And I don’t give Him a deadline.