Prior to Grace, we often left Ernie’s cage open so he could come and go at will. He ate and napped inside, but spent hours on top of the cage, watching the goings-on around him, laughing and sounding off.
As I worked around the house or at my computer, or even jumped rope for exercise, Ernie sat on my shoulder. When the Preacher napped, he stood guard on his shoulder. Pity the person who approached the bed when Ernie the watch-parrot stood guard.
Not a frequent flier, he also took walkabouts. Sometimes, if we weren’t in the room, he slid down his cage bars and shuffled through the house to find us, feet swishing. Ducking into each room, he gave a series of inquisitive chirps we understood as, “Any people in here?”
Things changed when Grace arrived. To a cat, all tall things – including chrome-barred cages – exist for climbing. And flappy things with beaks and feathers mean either fast food or animated toys.
No surprise then, that for the first few months, Grace intimidated Ernie by his keen interest in our feathered pet. We kept the cage shut more, but even when we put the cat downstairs and opened its door, Ernie rarely came out.
He still practiced his crow-caws. Screamed like a woman in childbirth. Wolf-whistled when he heard the shower running. And, on hearing the click of my computer keys in the office, he screeched so loud he muddled the puddle of my thoughts.
One day, about six months after Grace joined the family, Ernie decided he’d had enough of his self-confinement. Instead of sulking in his cage, open at the time, he popped out and slid down the bars. Without hesitation, he strutted like a miniature Roman emperor across the floor – straight to Grace. The cat watched, ears erect, tail thrashing. Swish by swish, the parrot approached the enemy.
A few feet away, Ernie paused. Cocked his head. Then, almost as though he’d made up his mind to wade into battle or die trying, he sped up. Stopped only inches from the cat’s whiskers. The cat froze, and fur and feathers faced off.
I moved closer, ready to intervene.
Ernie stepped forward. Grace stepped backward, bemused. Feathers backed fur up several more steps. Finally Ernie thrust a vicious peck in the space that Grace's nose had just vacated. Then, turning his back, he shuffled off, victorious. The cat did not follow.
Ernie has new confidence now. He has faced his fear – several times. Feathers, at least for now, have triumphed over fur.
Too many Christ-followers allow fear to hold them back from the freedom and inner strength Jesus promises. If that’s you, climb out of your cage. Confront that fear. God stands near.