We knew she was the right one. She was named Courtney. Beautiful green eyes. Long, powdery-gray, silky fur. A two-year old feline, with "Adopt me!" written all over her adorable face. What were we waiting for? Lots of paper work and three days later, we carried our newest family member out of the pet store.
In addition to my husband, daughter and me, our family also included a very handsome Maine Coon, named Nathaniel. His birthday was fast approaching and we thought it would be nice to give him a present. Little did we know that giving him a playmate would not rank very highly on his gift list. We had our first indication of trouble when we set Courtney's carrier on the living room floor, opened it and invited Nathaniel to come over and greet his sister. Courtney exploded out of the box with claws at the ready. Nathaniel's low growls let us know that he disapproved of his 'present,' and we quickly whisked Courtney off to another part of the house.
After a rocky start, our two cats eventually got to the point of tolerating each other, and over the years even seemed to develop a genuine affection for each other, despite different personalities. We had always referred to Nathaniel as our 'lap' cat. Anytime we would sit down, he was right there ready to hop up and join us. He was really more like a dog than a cat. He'd come when you called him, and he thoroughly enjoyed being around people. Courtney, on the other hand, displayed more of the typical feline tendencies. She was much more aloof and tended to hide when people would visit. She decided if and when you were allowed to pet her, and would nip your hand to let you know your attention was no longer appreciated.
This past May, after eighteen and a half wonderful years, our Nathaniel died. Through our sadness, we all wondered how Courtney would respond. We were amazed. Our once aloof Courtney, now leaps up onto the couch to sit on our laps while we watch TV. She loves being petted and even enjoys being brushed. And talk about social! What a transformation! Perhaps she stayed in the background because Nathaniel was the dominant male and had been in our household for many years prior to her arrival. Whatever the reason, although we miss Nathaniel, it's been a treat getting to know the 'real' Courtney.
The same principle is often true with people. How often do I have a preconceived idea about someone, only to get to know him/her, and find out I was entirely wrong? Maybe the girl I labeled a 'nerd' in high school would have become a lifelong friend had I made the effort to get to know her. My perceptions may be far from reality. Even well-established relationships can suffer when I start to second-guess people's intentions. How important it is to refrain from judging others.
In the book of Matthew, Christ couldn't have been clearer, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (7:1-2; KJV). Tough words. But oh, the wisdom when we put them into practice!
We can avoid judging others by acting on Paul's words to the Philippians, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself," (Phil. 2:3-8a).
Am I willing to humble myself, admit that I may have been wrong in my perception of someone else, and take the necessary steps to esteem that person more highly than myself? If so, I'm following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I'll be able to love others through Him. That's my desire today! Will you follow His example?