Rats aren’t really my thing. People may enjoy having them as pets, but after having trapped one in the garage of our first house and found a half-eaten one on the back porch of the aforementioned house… well, let’s just say I’ve had enough of rats.
C.S. Lewis, however, uses them in an effective illustration that I’d like to share with you:
“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.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (emphasis mine)
C.S. Lewis had a gift for illustration. (If you haven’t read Mere Christianity, it’s a worthwhile read! I enjoyed listening to this audio version narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.)
When we looked at King Saul in the previous post, he half-heartedly apologized for his sin, but immediately made an excuse. There were rats in the cellar of his heart!
If I am being honest, there are rats in the cellar of my heart as well. When they are revealed in a moment of “suddenness” my next steps should include asking the Lord to help me begin the extermination process. I don’t want rats in my house, so why on earth should I let even the figurative ones live in my heart?
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
~ Ephesians 4.31-32, ESV
This is part 4 of the series, “Why are you making excuses?” To read the previous posts, click the following links: