Where’s The Cat?
November 16, 2021, 11:00 AM

Jane Alexiadis, a personal property appraiser once wrote this of a collection of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale spoons in Danish silver, “How wonderful! I stared and stared at these spoons knowing they looked familiar but not being able to remember why. Finally, it occurred to me that all of the spoons illustrate scenes from classic fairy tales.”

In December of 1974 Harry Chapin’s song, “Cat’s in The Cradle,” hit #1. Chapin’s wife, Sandra, had previously written a poem by the same name. Harry leveraged his wife’s poem to pen some potentially head-scratching lyrics in the chorus:

“The cat’s in The cradle and the silver spoon, little Boy Blue, and the Man in The Moon…”

The phrase “cat’s in the cradle” isn’t a fairy tale, but rather references an old wives’ tale about cats stealing the breath and life out of unwatched babies.

SIDS is a tragic syndrome that still baffles medical professionals today. Imagine the fear and heartbreak surrounding an infant’s death in centuries past. Imagine the superstitious yarns woven when a cat was found near an infant’s cold and lifeless body.

“Cat’s in the cradle” today is a statement of relational neglect, primarily of parents leading to tragic outcomes. Cats were likely drawn to cribs by the scent of an infant’s food-soiled clothing, a leaking bottle of milk, or the regurgitation of it. The sudden and unknown cause of death in children (SIDS) would then be attributed to the superstitious notion of the cat having “stolen” their breath and life away.

“Silver spoon,” on the other hand is likely a reference connected to Hans Christian Andersen’s popular retelling of fairy tales, which were widely read as bedtime stories. The tales were so popular, they were crafted into toys and even children’s silver spoons - not unlike Disney characters on cups, plates, backpacks, etc.

Chapin then directly references two nursery rhymes found in the classic Mother Goose collection, “Little Boy Blue, and The Man in The Moon.”

Chapin’s poem/song makes a profound and prophetic statement about the dire and cyclical consequences of selfish human pursuits.

He learned to walk while I was away he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew he'd say, “I'm gonna be like you, dad. You know I'm gonna be like you.”

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little Boy Blue and The Man in The Moon. “When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when, but we'll get together then. You know we'll have a good time then.”

Chapin’s song takes the listener on a rapid journey from his son’s birth to adulthood. At the onset Chapin is busy with his career and worldly pursuits, failing to realize one can’t just flip on the switch of being a real dad, a real husband, indeed a real man whenever we decide. That’s not how life works. It either happens now, today, or if it ever does - it’ll likely be far too late.

When Chapin finally decides it’s the right and convenient time for him to finally be a dad, the ship has sailed. His boy has grown up just like his dad. His boy is consumed with and driven by all the same things he was. His boy values and is now chasing after selfish pursuits, just like dad.

The song ominous closing lyrics loom large, leaving listeners with a choice to make:

I've long since retired, my son's moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, “I'd like to see you if you don't mind. He said, “I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kids have the flu, but it's sure nice talking to you, dad. It's been sure nice talking to you.”

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me… He'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.

The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little Boy Blue and The Man in The Moon… all about neglect, superstition, and fairy tales, just like Chapin’s fictitious words, “We’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.”


What does Chapin’s song have to do with Christianity? How does any of this translate to something more than worldly sorrow that brings only death? Is there something more than just a morality lesson guilting dads into spending more “quality time” with their kids?

Scripture teaches us that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). For the majority of his life, David’s exclusive focus was pleasing the Lord in all things at all times.

So what differentiates the “Davids” of the world from the “Sauls?” What distinguishes real men after God’s own heart from the posers, the insecure little boys merely pretending to be men? It’s not living perfect, error-free, sinless, spotless lives. That’s the fairy tale. It’s not slaying giants. Instead, it’s how we respond when coming face-to-face with our failures, i.e. the depth and ugliness of our selfishness in sin - and its fateful impact on others.

Men own it as David did (2Sam 12:13). Little boys, like Saul, ignore it and go on playing in the sandboxes of life building their pathetic little kingdoms and sad little monuments to themselves (1Sam 15:12).

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul urges real men in the church, “…to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”

In Eph 4:3 Paul compels men to “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit (in the church) through the bond of peace.”

Scripture reveals in Eph 4:12-13 that the reason why Christ gave Himself apostles, evangelists, prophets, and pastor-teachers isn’t for an uplifting message or positive Sunday experience, but rather “to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.”

The test of what is truly pleasing to the Lord (Eph 5:10) is “the proper working of each individual part” in the Body of Christ.

It’s about simple, literal, immediate, and complete obedience to the good works God prepared beforehand as our new way of life as His poiema, masterpiece, handiwork, craftsmanship - the Body of Christ (Eph 2:10).

Is our response joyful obedience to Christ’s command in Acts 1:8 or Romans 1:5? Is it joyful obedience to His commission of Matthew 28:19 and Philippians 2:3?

Guys, are you busy building a career, a name, and monuments to yourself, as Saul did, or are you a man after God’s own heart? The answer is revealed in your consistency of humility, faithfulness, service, and leadership in the church.

Why are women so often the go-to leaders in churches today? Check Genesis 3:17-19. Nothing’s changed. Rebels, like Adam, are still looking to place blame. Still striving and struggling “by the sweat of their brow” to eke out a pathetic existence or to make a big name for themselves.

Women are left holding the “leadership” bag in their families… in the church. Meanwhile, little boys are eking out an existence, chasing dreams, and building monuments that’ll crumble before we’re even done building them.

The cat’s in the cradle guys. Young men are looking around the church, observing what’s going on, because they wanna be just like you dad. They wanna be just like you.

What are they seeing? Disconnected dads watching from the sidelines? Are dads merely attending as religious consumers? Do our boys see real, strong, humble, patient, obedient, secure, and loving men serving and leading in the church?

Will guys be filled with deep worldly regret and realize far too late, as Chapin sings in his song, those boys have grown up just like us - chasing, pursuing, building… believing it’ll all be there when they finally decide to step up and lead… just like us.

The cats in the church. The utter neglect of grown “men” to step up and truly be men after God’s own heart is stealing the breath and life away from the local church. It’s no wives' tale. It’s not mere superstition.

Guys, our sons don’t just want to be just like us, the fact is, who they’ll become is due largely to what we model for them right now.

We can “pray for America” all day long, but until we actually become real men who love our wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for up her (Eph 5:25)… until we actually do the good works God prepared beforehand as our new way of life… until we devote ourselves to living worthy of the calling we’ve received in the Body… until we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Body… until we willingly and willfully give ourselves away in and for the Body of Christ and the mission of God…those lofty prayers are nothing more than an abomination to God (Pr 28:9).

How does your love for Christ stand up to the test of loving and serving in the Body? Are you eagerly awaiting His return demonstrated by your deep commitment to unity and service in the Body through the proper working of your part? Or does it look more like neglect and a fairy tale of wishful thinking?

Where’s the cat? Is it stealing the breath and life from the church while you’re busy catching planes and building monuments?

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings only death.”
2 Cor 7:10

Kevin M. Kelley
Pastor, PBC