I Smell a Rat

The following is an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

“We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is  some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed.  And the excuse  that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.  Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular  acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated.  On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man:  it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.  The rats are  always there  in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”

Lewis at his best! Selfishly I am glad to know someone as great as Lewis was an “ill-tempered” man like myself. He is so spot on. I am at my worst when I am suddenly provoked. I have seen this play out at work. I will be deep in thought (on something work related) and someone will interrupt me. It has happened more than once where I let the individual know that I am not happy with their interruption. Maybe it was responding with one word answers, a quick “huff”, a sharp “what?”, no eye contact, or an emptiness in my eyes – either way I want to other person to know that they interrupted me and it was not welcomed. And what a man does when he is taken off guard is an indicator of what kind of man he is.

I wish this weren’t so. I have known a few people in my life that never seemed to be interrupted. They could be losing pints of blood from a cut on their leg, be on their way to the hospital, but couldn’t care less that you are asking for their pumpkin bread recipe. “Oh no problem at all” they would say……as they slip into a coma.

My cellar has far too many rats. Heck, I am not sure you even need to come in unannounced! Hang around me long enough and they will pull up a seat next to you. This is something that has always leaped off the pages of the four Gospels. Jesus never seemed interrupted. It wasn’t that he was indifferent, or didn’t have things on his mind. Rather he seemed to graciously accept that he would be interrupted – A LOT! He never lost his cool. He never scolded or humiliated anyone for doing so. In fact he scolded some of the disciples for their lack of patience with the crowds (as if it were them that the crowds wanted to see). And it wasn’t because he was a “yes man” – nor someone who had a need to feel wanted. He accepted the fact that he had to put himself last – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Outside of prayer, I really don’t know how to go about exterminating the rats in my cellar. I don’t mind the cobwebs and dust, but the rats really need to go. I want to be a person who joyfully and willfully puts himself dead last. I want to know what it is like to be the Cleveland Browns….OK that was low. But honestly, such a condition (impatience) is an ugly disease. It isn’t good for anyone – not me, not my family and not those that come in contact with me.

Please let me know if you have the number to a good exterminator!


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