I recently had the privilege of meeting someone who gave a presentation in which he proposed that vegetarianism should be adopted by Christians as part of their missional agenda to care for creation. He cited the harm done to the environment by beef farming in particular, not to mention the health challenges posed to individuals by the consumption of processed meat. It was a compelling argument, though sadly not strong enough for me to forego the Sunday roast…
What it did do, however, was make me reconsider my pet. It makes good sense to care for animals well, to sustain and nurture our fellow creatures. Our rabbit Snuffles is a wonderful source of comfort to me. We got him as a gift to the children one Christmas, but he’s basically my pet. At least, I’m the primary care giver. I’m the one who feeds and waters him, puts him to bed at night, lets him in and out of the house in the day, and who sits on the kitchen floor with him for long spells of bunny-human time. As a result, it’s most rewarding when it’s my ankles he comes to lick, and my feet he lays his head on under the kitchen table. He is delightful to contemplate, is warm and soft, and he softens my heart when I spend time with him. I honestly thank God for Snuffles.
It is of course no accident that we should feel this way about our furred friends. Animals have provided companionship to humans for millennia. It’s requires responsibility, not to mention some expense, but animals are truly gifts from God. Snuffles may have a brain the size of a plum but he shows the same signs of life as a human; he responds to affection and renders it back, shows fear, contentment, playfulness and distinct cheekiness. He makes no sound, but his physical presence reminds me to slow down and contemplate.
I’m not sure it’s in me to pen a poem to Snuffles. Perhaps I can borrow from what the inspired composer Benjamin Britten wrote of his cat instead:
For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the living God.
Duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance
Of the glory of God in the East
He worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body
Seven times round with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his saviour.
For God has bless’d him
In the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter
Than his peace when at rest.
(From Rejoice in the Lamb)
If it’s true for Jeoffry, it is true of Snuffles: there is something of sweetness, worship, peace and rest here; things I enjoy, things the world needs.