To relieve this, I reach under his neck and start to pull the mat apart at the base, starting from the outside edges. The process takes a while and it is decidedly uncomfortable for him because the neck is a sensitive area, but it's like he knows I'm trying to help him, so he hunches over in dislike, but he stays and he doesn't try to bite or scratch me. Eventually the mat comes loose, and I let him sniff it. It's my way of telling him, "See, that's what that awful thing was." He sniffs it, gives it a lick that says, "Wow is that thing ever messy!" and then he licks my fingers and rubs his face against my hand. "Thank you, Mom." His relief is obvious. For a while there is a bald spot where the mat once was, but that's temporary. The fur eventually grows back in, just not tangled.
Early in my recovery from the grave clothes of my upbringing and other experiences of my childhood, I had to settle the question of trust. I had to answer the question, "Do I trust You, Lord?" Here's the song of that same name ... by Twila Paris:
Before I even got there, I had to settle in my mind that God was trustworthy. I was entering a process where a lot of old memories were going to be dredged up, memories I had buried because they were so painful. The potential to be hurt all over again was pretty real. That's when I re-discovered Psalm 139: 3. In the New Living Translation, it reads, "You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment, You know where I am." Later on, in verse 12, David talks about darkness being as bright as day to God. That was important to me because as a child I was terrified of the dark, and even as an adult I liked to know what was happening and often referred to myself as hating "being in the dark." I love how the Message puts it, "Then I said to myself, 'Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I'm immersed in the light!' It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to You."
God used these verses, plus a whole bunch of other ones, and the trust my cat showed in me, to speak to my spirit that He was trustworthy, and that I could therefore trust Him that the process was necessary to rid me once and for all of the hurts of the past. When I started to trust His motives as being those of love and compassion, when I realized that He would not cause any more discomfort than was necessary to "remove the matted fur" - and when I knew in my heart that He would give me times along the way where it was okay to stop and rest, I could finally step with growing confidence into that healing stream. I realized that I didn't have to know it all ahead of time, that it was enough that God did, that He loved me, and that His goal was to free me of the inner hell I thought I would always have to endure. No matter how long it took, and no matter how painful it might be, He would walk me through it and would allow me to catch my breath.
And experience has borne that out. He has been there the whole time. His patience, His love, His strength, has been with me from the start. He found the terrified, cowering little child in me and spoke peace, love, and assurance to her. He went into each of those painful memories and infused each one with His compassion and His strength. He held me and let me experience all the emotions I was too afraid to express when I was going through those hurts in the first place - and gave me the strength to admit if and when I was wrong, to see the hurt inside my abusers, and to have compassion for them and forgive them. This was something I had never been able to do, would never be able to do on my own. It took time - but He stayed with me.
He's still here.
He is trustworthy and He loves me ... even when the mats - and matters - are huge.