I follow My Foster Kittens on Instagram. It was there I learned about the problem of black cats finding homes. For whatever reason, they are hard to get adopted, and when you go to a shelter, chances are, there will be more black cats waited to be adopted than other colors.

When I was five and all that trauma came roaring into my life, we had two black cats, a brother and sister named Abraxis and Du-rah (it is rumored that I came up with the latter name). I remember their sleek fur and the sound of their purrs. But I have no memory of them after we moved away. I’m not sure what happened to them. They exist in that stuck memory, silent sentinels to my abuse.

So when I convinced my husband we needed a cat (our cat Madeline had passed over a year before), my daughter Julia and I went to the pound and found the sweetest little black cat. I pet her. I looked into her eyes. I fell in love. A few days later (after all the convincing), I hoped and prayed the black kitty was still there. And she was. That was when I knew about her teenage pregnancy status and her life on the streets. She had a rough life, to be sure, and it made me love her even more.

In that moment, I started crying in the pound. All those memories of the other two black cats flooded into my heart. It’s no wonder (or surprise) that I named her Boo Radley (I know it’s a boy’s name, but that’s what I chose) after the enigmatic character in To Kill a Mockingbird who protected Jem from harm. The symbolism meant something to me.

I identify with Boo. I, too, felt like I was unworthy of pursuit. Like a caged cat longing for a family, I longed for care, love and protection. Like so many black cats, sexual abuse survivors face the stigma of needing to be noticed, picked up gently, and wanted–but not in an exploitive way. Sadly, the story of black cats is just that. They are more abused, more harmed than any other cat.

This is an epidemic in both feline and human communities. We need to reverse the narrative: that black cats and sexual abuse survivors are amazing, worthy of affection, and quite necessary in this world. In fact, they are a blessing. When we push them away, we miss out on the unique beauty each bring.

Boo sleeps with me every night, nestled against me, purring. She lets me pick her up. She simply loves me. Wants me to be her friend. She knows what life is like with trauma, still she pursues me. Oh to have others do the same. Oh to be seen not as damaged, but important and necessary in the life of the church.

That’s my longing–that the church of Jesus Christ would welcome those on the outside, those who suffer, those others overlook. When they do (it is my ardent prayer), they will reap the reward of being loved in return and learning how to truly have empathy for those who suffer.

WE TOO releases next week, friends. You can pick up a copy here.

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