Zephyr, cantankerous middle-aged tabby cat and star of past Disheveled Theologian columns, has gotten himself into trouble again. Zephyr loves to go outside — until we moved into town he lived outdoors — and he has never learned, despite past experience, to leave well enough alone. Slightly gone-to-seed former adventurer that he is, he repeatedly skirts too close for comfort to the notion that curiosity killed the cat. Thankfully his inquisitiveness hasn’t yet killed him, but it is probably only a matter of time.
This week he was bitten by something or somethings unknown. Again. His reward was a trip to the doctor, a shaved patch of skin and two weeks of in-house arrest. We can tell he feels pretty lousy because he hasn’t even complained too much, though he has begun sitting at the door and staring outside in a forlorn manner.
Zephyr is an orange tabby cat. He is a little overweight. He is rough around the edges and does not suffer cuddling expect in the rarest of circumstances (the veterinary office being one of them), and his is, perhaps surprisingly, gentle and sweet. So long as you don’t try picking him up.
All of these descriptors — orange, rough, kinda fat, sweet and surprising, even “forlorn” and “bitten” — describe something else in our house recently. Something in our fruit bowl, in fact. I present to you, for your gastronomic delight, the Sumo Citrus.
Oh. My. Goodness. Have you tried one? I first saw the ungainly fruit in a local grocery store. I did not buy it. I judged it. Unfairly.
I went home sans Sumo and logged onto Facebook where, to my astonishment, I saw in my newsfeed a photo of … a Sumo Citrus. A friend out in Seattle had posted the picture and she was raving about it. Hearts were used. And exclamation points. I commented that I’d just been judgy toward said Sumos and she replied, “GRETCHEN. GET THEMMMMM!”
How could I say no? I returned to the grocery store a day or two later. I picked up a Sumo. I weighed it in my hands. I thought, fleetingly, of a Jerry Seinfeld, quote, “Fruit is a gamble." I decided to throw the dice.
When Zephyr isn’t recovering from battle wounds, he trots to the door every morning and meows to go outside. If the temperature is 20 or above and there isn’t much wind, the instant we open the door, he runs out. If it is windy, however, or too frigid, he backs up like a Mack truck beeping in reverse, and stalks off. This process gets repeated once or twice more before either giving it up as a bad job or gearing himself up and running outside, cold weather and wind be darned. “It’s worth it,” he says. Even if his visit only lasts about 30 seconds.
Fixing to eat that first Sumo Orange felt a little like Zephyr gearing himself up for adventure. I tested the waters by sniffing. I manhandled the rough, thick skin which peels like a dream, come to find out. I separated the first segment and then the next, putting each carefully into a bowl, still unsure though it looked plump and juicy. I am wary of oranges. So often they are dry. So often they disappoint. Finally, after all that prep work, I took a bite.
Yes! Oranges don’t get much better than that.
Hopefully whatever it is that bit Zephyr won’t think he’s anywhere close to that delicious because if they do they’ll go back for more. As I did. To the store. I didn’t buy many — they’re too expensive for that — but I couldn’t help but get another three or four.
What does this have to do with theology? Outward appearance, my friends. We look on the rough and ugly and we get judgy. We think nothing good can come of that. We discard. But not God. He sees the inside. He knows the sweetness. He champions us to anyone who will listen. He picks us up when we’re rejected. He loves us when people say we’re unlovable.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
PS: Many thanks to the lovely people at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington!
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.