Nathan Hayes was putting gas in his truck that day when he noticed a smear on his windshield and decided to clean it off. While he went to find a squeegee, another man jumped in his running truck and took off. Nathan ran after the truck and grabbed on, fighting the driver for several seconds as he was drug along the road. He was finally pushed off, rolling into a ditch, and the driver crashed the truck into a tree.
Nathan crawled over to his truck as the injured driver ran away, and some good Samaritans who stopped to help said, “Sir, don’t worry about the truck!” He responded, “I’m not worried about the truck.” He opened the back door, and his new born baby wailed from her carseat.
This first scene from the movie, Courageous, captured my attention from minute one, and I was hooked.
We’re attracted to stories with main characters who do something heroic. They inspire us and make us hopeful about life and mankind. We want to be better because of them.
But when the movie ends, we have to go home. Back to our boring reality of NOT saving lives and NOT being a hero. Maybe this is why so many of us have shelves overflowing with movies and books. Fictional characters’ lives are way more exciting to watch and read about than living our own.
We all want to make a difference; we all want to matter. But our thoughts often defeat us: I’m not heroic. I’m ordinary. Who cares about me? I’ll never do anything great. I don’t matter.
Have you ever watched kids play on the playground? My young son Zach loves to play Super Heroes. His little girl friends want to play Princess and beg him to save them from the bad guys. Zach always obliges. That’s what a super hero does.
This innate desire to save and be saved never goes away. It’s the stuff of fairy tales because it’s the deep longing of life. We’ve been created this way.
Save The Cat
There’s this cool trick good storytellers use to engage the audience called “Saving the Cat.” Donald Miller talks about it in his book Million Miles . In the first 20 minutes of the movie, the protagonist has to do something good. He can be crabby and have a drinking problem and even be a bit of a jerk (weaknesses, remember? They make us likable!) but unless he does something good, the audience won’t want things to work out for him, and they’ll lose interest in the story.
Because Nathan Hayes “saves a cat” when he saves his baby, we can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Isn’t this the stuff of Christianity? Christ first risked His life for ours, gave it up, actually, so we could be saved from sin, death. We weren’t saved from sin to sit on our couches. Our adventure begins when Christ saves us.
Surf the Couch
Honestly, it’s so much easier to surf the couch than save the cat. I’d rather live vicariously through the fictional lives on the screen or in the book. And while I WISH I were living a better life and saving a whole herd of cats, I’m also tired and unmotivated to do anything about it. It’s too hard. Like starting a diet. Or cleaning my house. Everything feels so overwhelming, so why not do nothing?
I don’t even like cats.
There are plenty of distractions that lull me into lazy coma living. I love naps and fuzzy blankets with the satin edge you can rub between your thumb and finger to soothe yourself into the sleep coma. That’s a perfect day right there, and I’m not getting off the couch. Like ever. Good luck with finding dinner and clean clothes and a ride to school.
Except I can’t get Nathan’s story out of my head. Or all the other stories I’ve read of Cat Saving. It shakes me out of my vegetative state just enough to be bothered by my own life on the couch. And suddenly my warm fuzzy blanket feels a bit suffocating - like it betrayed me a bit for encouraging me to nap all day. Now I’m kind of angry at the blanket. It talked me into wasting a perfectly good day doing nothing that mattered.
When a character “saves a cat,” they sacrifice for the greater good and embody Philippians 2:3-4.
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
So what motivates me to quit surfing couches and start saving cats? Passion.
Serve Through Suffering
That thing that we can’t NOT do. Passion is the Latin word for “suffering.”
We’ve all been through some horrific things that changed us. Pain is like that. It not only changes us, it makes us compassionate toward others. Once we’ve suffered something significant, we can’t stand the thought of someone else suffering, too. And from that deep place from within, we want to “save cats.”
My story of depression is long and painful and ongoing. But because of it, I now walk alongside others who suffer. What painful story have you lived through? It might be the very thing God will use to save a few cats.
We serve through our suffering. Our stories are about saving. Let’s talk more about this passion and cat saving next time. Because as the hero of your story, you have a lot of cats to save, and do I.