I was in bed the other night when my cat strolled into my room. He jumped onto the foot of my mattress, sat down, licked the back of his paw and then said in a voice much like Jerry Seinfeld’s after inhaling a helium balloon, “So, what do you want out of life?”
I was stunned.
He then began opening and closing his mouth in a smacking manner while making a loud beeping noise that sounded much like my alarm clock.
It was, in fact, my alarm clock.
My eyes popped opened.
I was dreaming.
It was weird.
I was still thinking about it even after I brushed my teeth and began making my way across the house to the kitchen.
The real-life version of my cat followed along behind me, batting at the hem of my pajamas.
I poured my coffee, added cream and an agave sweetener, and as I lifted the mug to my mouth I looked down at my philosophical feline. Our gazes narrowed at one another and I said out loud to him, “You’re not smarter than me.”
He did that weird thing that cats do jerking his head slightly forward and for a second I thought that he might actually be able to speak. Instead, he just flopped on one hip and briskly began grooming his tail.
He is a worthless pet, but still, his dream question bothered me.
“What do you want out of life?”
What do I want?
I realized that I didn’t have a ready answer, and not having a ready answer made me nervous.
I was filled with dread.
Standing in my kitchen, looking at this overweight cat, I quickly decided that maybe my life had no meaning, simply because I didn’t know what I wanted.
Then, it occurred to me, the chorus from the famous Rolling Stones song,
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”
The tune spun in my head like a forty-five record, static and all, a mantra, and I began to calm down. I began to be soothed. I began to wonder at the difference in “want” and in “need.”
We are told that we have basic needs like food, clothes, water, human interaction, love if we are lucky. But then, why is it, that even after these needs are met we still “want” more? We still “need” to “want,” and we somehow get this “want” mixed up with the meaning of life? One pushes the other along and they become like Rolling Stones (pun intended), down slippery slopes and they leave us hanging on by our fingertips on the edge of anxiety.
We live to want, which makes us grow tired of living all together.
Is this how things are supposed to be? Is this what we were created for? After all, in the beginning, Adam and Eve had everything they needed, it was what they wanted that got them into trouble. Why should it be any different for us? They made a mess of pure perfection and boy, have we been adding to that mess ever since, creating turmoil where there should be peace.
My life has seemed extra tumultuous lately. So much so that I sometimes wonder if I am that friend other people have around just so they can feel better about their own lives, kind of like the way I feel about my organizational skills after I watch an episode of “Extreme Hoarders.”
My thinking is chaotic, and I sense that I am sinking in doubt. I burrow down in the doubt and, like Adam and Eve, I try to hide from God.
Then, out of nowhere, I have a silly dream about a talking cat.
What do I want out of life?
I want the truest desires of my heart, desires that are all found in one place, and which are built on a Solid Foundation.
I am not sinking, instead I am given circumstances, and I am allowed to make mistakes to remind me that what I “want” and what I “need” are the same thing, a God that doesn’t change.
I literally have the words from that famous Rolling Stones song cross-stitched onto a pillow. My best friend made it for me when I graduated from high-school. I guess she somehow knew that over three decades later, I would need them on a morning when I would freak out over the meaning of life.
I sing the words sometimes like a hymn.
I may even teach them to the cat, you know, just in case.
But, even if he does one day talk, he still won’t be smarter than me.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4