I’m a sucker for vintage Disney stories. I have a collection of old Disney story books from my childhood and often read them to my boys. Tonight we chose The Aristocats, and I was moved by the final page. I’ve seen the movie and read the story dozens of times in my life, but I’ve never really stopped to take notice of the great story of redemption in O’Malley the alley cat’s life.
Duchess and her kittens are abandoned by the house butler, Edgar, and left to die in the French countryside. Along comes the loner, O’Malley, who has no interest in taking responsibility for the lives of others. But through the crisis of their lostness, O’Malley’s heart breaks and he becomes the hero, guiding them safely back home. At the end of the story, Edgar gets fired and sent away and the Madame of the house adopts O’Malley into her family of felines. And the final page says,
Madame said she needed a cat who was smart and brave.
So O’Malley decided to stay.
He was a very good father.
“How did we ever get along without you?” asked Duchess.
O’Malley just smiled.
I’m a Pastor, so in my line of work, I meet a lot of single moms who are doing the absolute best they can to raise their kids into godly young men and women. I see other married moms who are the singular spiritual leader in their homes. Moms, in our culture, have carried an unfair burden for far too long, and the situation seems to worsen with each generation.
I’m convinced that we men are all at least a little bit like O’Malley the alley cat. We think we’re doing just find on our own. We shy away from the pressure of responsibility. We don’t want to be nagged or pushed or even gently nudged into being less selfish than we are. And along comes a duchess into our lives, presenting us the possibility of love and companionship. But along with the benefits of a love relationship comes the responsibility to do the one thing hardest for human beings – especially for men: dying to self.
Mother’s Day is a reminder to me of what ought to be celebrated far more than annually – that our culture is preserved, in large part, by the dedication of women. And it’s also a reminder that there are men, redeemed and renovated from the inside out, who are willing to be the exceptions to the norm.
These reformed alley cats are willing to love, to adopt, to stay. They’re willing to follow the model of the God who never leaves us and never forsakes us. They aren’t perfect. They don’t have perfect pasts. And they usually still like to hang out with Scat Cat and his band and express their inner wildness in non-destructive ways. But they’re faithful to love.
I’m praying, this week, for the women I know who long for an O’Malley in their lives and in the lives of their children. And I’m praying for men on the fringes to engage, to have the guts to die to themselves and follow Jesus. May God raise up men who are kings, warriors, lovers, and friends.
I’m an O’Malley myself. I have a past. I still stumble. But by the grace of God, my identity has shifted and I’ve been born again into God’s family, adopted alongside my brothers in Christ and given a brand new mission to reconcile others back to God and to consider the cause of the voiceless and the defenseless, the widow and the orphan, the abandoned and the victimized.
This is one story I want my boys to hear often and to grow into the godly young men I’m praying they’ll become!