by Molly Dillon / Keizer Campus Principal
Recently the joyful sound of laughter filled the house as my teenagers shared a YouTube video featuring two cats ringing a bell for treats. That adorable, comical performance inspired our latest family “cat project”. We reminisced about our previous attempts at cat cuteness. Our festive Christmas photo with family and cat in matching jammies did not end well (wearing pajamas seems to elicit erratic behavior in cats). There was also our short-lived adventure in toilet training the cat. He was fascinated, yet focused more on emptying the cat litter into the toilet than doing his business. The kids and I found it hysterical; however, my husband, who is also in charge of maintenance, was not amused, and educated us on the science of cat litter and plumbing.
Undeterred by past failure, a bell was ordered and the process began. A few weeks into it, the cat’s unforeseen fear of the bell decreased, yet his stubbornness increased. Enough time and treats had passed for him to have fully grasped this simple concept. We rang the bell and dutifully doled out a tasty treat, encouraged him to ring the bell, and repeated the drill. After another week, I entered into some intentional trust-building (he knows I’m not his biggest fan). I took his paw, rang the bell, and gave him a treat (over, and over, and over). Now it was his turn to do it by himself; we both sat on the kitchen floor staring at each other, the bag of treats, and the bell, in awkward silence. This behavior modification plan needed some serious work.
Changing behavior is never easy, nor is recognizing its power to serve as a “red flag” or symptom of a need for heart and mind transformation. As believers, our goal is to address our sinful behavior and become Christlike, yet we cannot achieve it by human will or determination. The Bible instructs us to “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:23 (NLT). The more we engage in practices that draw us near to God as our source for truth, encouragement, and transformation, our hearts and minds will begin to align with His, and our behavior will follow.
I have come to the realization that our cat may never ring that bell, but I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon. Thankfully, God never gives up on the hearts and minds of His beloved people “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10).
– Molly Dillon / Keizer Campus Principal