As I pulled my car into a parking spot at an assisted living home, I noticed a cat sitting on the rail of the porch. It was intently looking up toward the eaves of the roof as if it spied some small creature there that it wanted to attack.
Suddenly the feline acrobatically hopped several feet upward onto a crooked section of the drain pipe near the roof hoping to get within reach of its prey. It continued to focus its gaze at something over its head, although I never caught a glimpse of its objective.
I can only assume that if something was really present other than a cat's active imagination, it was probably a small lizard of some kind.
A little while later when I exited the building, I noticed the cat was still sitting there. It didn't seem to be hunting anymore, but rather assessing its situation.
It looked like it may have regretted its rash decision to jump onto that lofty perch, and wasn't quite sure about the best way to get down again.
It reminded me of a couple of cats that had been members of our family over the years. I can remember them getting all excited and in the heat of that moment climbing a tree.
Once they got up there, they suddenly weren't sure about getting back down. They often had to be coaxed to work up the courage to try to scoot down that trunk and get their paws back on solid ground.
It's not just cats who sometimes plunge into a situation and then find it hard to get back out again. We've all probably done it at some point. A moment of passion, anger, excitement, or simply curiosity resulted in us rashly doing or saying something that we soon regretted.
We wish we could rewind the tape of our action or take back the words, but it's too late. We're stuck there now, berating ourselves for our foolish action and wondering how to get out of our predicament.
The Bible provides us with a number of examples of such impetuous acts. There was Esau who, in a moment of exhaustion, rashly traded his birthright for a bowl of stew.
There was David who, in a moment of lust, hopped into bed with another man's wife, only to find frustration and roadblocks as he attempted to cover up his deed.
And there was Peter who, in a moment of zeal, dared to rebuke the Son of God for predicting His own suffering and death.
They each took a leap in the emotional heat of the moment, probably thinking that they were pursuing a good course at the time. But when the moment passed, they were left with regret, fear and the reality of the consequences of their actions.
On the positive side, we can be assured that we can find forgiveness for our rash deeds through heartfelt repentance and faith.
Unfortunately, there are aspects of such actions that aren't easily undone. We may be forgiven, but still find ourselves having to clean up a mess or live with the ongoing consequences.
The old adage "look before you leap" may not be a biblical quotation, but it is good advice. That doesn't mean there isn't room in our lives for spontaneity or for being open to some Spirit-led impulse. But we do need to guard against emotion-driven rashness.
We would often benefit from looking, thinking, and praying before we take a plunge.
I bet that cat will think twice before taking such a leap next time. I hope we will too.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.