Note: Before reading this article, you may want to read “The Safe Place,” which tells the earlier story of Wookie’s problems.
It was 4:30 AM. I was asleep. That’s what God meant us all to be at 4:30 AM: asleep. As I floated in dreamland, I had no idea that I was being watched, that even my breathing was being monitored by an unseen observer. Then, a tiny set of teeth slowly and deliberately began to approach my bare right arm, the only portion of my anatomy (other than my head) that wasn’t snugly tucked beneath the covers. With a firm but gentle touch, those razor sharp little teeth daintily touched the skin of my right arm, just hard enough to notify me of the toothbearer’s presence and desire for my immediate attention. I stirred slightly, and the creature responded with yet another nibble. The third pitch was a base hit: my eyes opened to see my little fur-lined observer and hear her begin to purr and nuzzle my ear. It was then that I realized the significance of the moment.
Wookie was back.
In the big picture, I suppose that it hadn’t been all that long a journey. To us, it seemed like eternity. Our once active little kitten, perhaps the most affectionate animal that I’ve ever known, had been traumatized, and had retreated to her “safe place” for refuge and isolation. She cut herself off totally from all of the other family members, leaving the safe place only when necessary to eat, drink, and handle the other bare necessities of life. When removed from her safe place, she became terrified and struggled for her freedom, bolting directly back to her safe place, under a dining room chair. To complicate the fear factor, Wookie also had a skin condition, and we could tell that she was in pain, but she wouldn’t let us treat the sore areas. Instead, she chose to run and hide, and wallow in her sickness and fear.
We took her to the Vet, who issued specific medication to sooth her skin and eliminate the root cause of the problem. He was honest enough to admit that he didn’t understand all of the inner workings of the feline psyche, but he believed that the medicine would help substantially. He was right—there was a definite improvement produced by the medicine—but the change wasn’t instantaneous. Within 24 hours, we could see some slight improvement, and felt that we were on the right path.
Then, we changed our strategy. Rather than trying to coax her out of her “safe place,” we started spending time laying on the floor in the dining room, talking with and petting her. With each passing day, we saw a little bit more progress. After a few days, we noticed that she was laying on the dining room floor, nearby but not in the “safe place.” The next day, she spent more time in the kitchen, and to our delight actually showed some signs of playfulness. Wookie even allowed me to pick her up, as long as I didn’t try to venture too far away.
The family went on a weekend trip, and our friend (and honorary daughter) Megan house-sat for us while we were gone. Wookie and Megan love each other, and Megan told us that Wookie had actually ventured into some other parts of the house with her. The ever-widening “safety zone” now included the upstairs hallway and the spare bedroom, but Wookie’s reaction to being stretched beyond those limits was just as definite as ever.
The night we came back to town, Wookie allowed me to carry her into my office and actually sat on my lap for a while, clawed my shirt, and snuggled for a few minutes. She was still scared of the bedroom, and when taken there she left immediately (if not sooner), preferring to be just outside the door.
Then, at last, she crossed the final barrier. She woke me up to announce her arrival, and I then woke up Sharon, and we spent the balance of the night welcoming Wookie back.
Now, Wookie’s back to her old self, skipping and running, playing and scrapping with the other cats, sleeping on the bed with us, and getting into more mischief than ever. It’s nice to have her back—we missed her.
There’s an obvious parallel between Wookie’s recovery and our recovery process. Her fears, like most, were irrational, and caused by outside factors that on the surface weren’t connected at all. Fear is like that; sometimes it makes no reasonable sense at all Wookie’s recovery was a process, not an event, and she needed help along the way, just like we do.
The Bible is filled with examples of recovery—people like David, Peter, and others who fell on their faces, wounded themselves, and whom God restored. There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve got a problem that you’re struggling with, and that you need help and healing. In fact, admitting that you’ve got a problem and need help is the first and most important step to recovery.
We really missed Wookie while she was “away from us.” Her little body was here, but she wasn’t. We missed her greatly, but it’s really a delight to have her back with us.
Is God missing you? Have you “been away?”
Come on back. He misses you.
We miss you, too.