Friday, December 01, 2006

Rats in the Cellar

C.S. Lewis calls them "rats in the cellar" Those moments that we really see who we really are or can be.

"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

Sometimes we have plenty of time to do all the yelling and banging around that we need giving the rats plenty of time to hide, hiding who we really are, and sometimes we don't. It is usually when we haven't taken care of a certain sin that God flicks the light on for you. And, fellow Christian, when He does, it ain't pretty. Don't get me wrong, it isn't like God is warming his hands, waiting for the moment to switch the light on. It is more like He has been trying to deal with something for a while, and finally gives you over to your self by flicking the light on. Its that whole "Pride goeth before the fall" bit. Sometimes I wish I didn't ALWAYS have to learn things the hard way, but that is my nature.

Traffic is the time that my rats show their ugly little scurrying body in my cellar. I have almost waved people over to fist-fight driving in my car several, several times. All kinds of faces, words and fingers have made their debut from the big screen of my car windows. There is one particular finger that is a superstar when it comes to that venue.

Yes, I have made a fool out of myself a zillion times in the car. It is getting better and God is helping me. He is helping me be showing me that I have alot of anger. Its not the traffic that I am really mad about. (well, not all of it) The traffic is merely the light switch.

For Faith Hill it took that Chick who sang that "Jesus will you drive my car" sap-fest-of-a-tune beating her out fo the award to put her over the edge. Before she knew it, someone had flicked on the lights and her rats scurried around gloriously in front of a gazillion veiwers.

Where do yours show up?


Douglas_Coombs said...

"Where do yours show up?"

When certain !@#$%@#$^% people suggest that I am a mere mortal.

Anonymous said...

Traffic. And when my stocks take a downward tick.
Or when I'm trying to work something mechanical and can't figure it the heck out.

Anonymous said...

Broken electronics, and watching videos of rich, famous people throwing fits over nothing.

Seth Ward said...

Doug, I had the same issue until I stopped running around in a cape and a mask trying to jump off things.

No, I understand. One of the most frustrating and addicting things is arguing with an Atheist. It is a neverending spiral of anger.

Lexie, Losing any kind of money can send me over the edge. I can't bring myself to buy anything over 20 bucks for full price.

Also, all you have to do is push the eraser down and the led comes out of those pencils. Its kind of tricky because it is hidden.

Brody, that VH1 show with the rich kids and their sweet 16 gets me riled up. Just makes me want to get out the paddle and start whupping some brat butt.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Seth, I have a thought or two about this C.S. Lewis quote, as well as all this anger you seem to be expressing. I might be going to a weird place with this, so bear with me.

First, for me -- I'm a very patient and easy-going person. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, for me to feel really strong anger, to lose my temper, whatever. And even more to make me show it (I'm pretty good at bottling it up, even when there's a lot there).

I might get a little mad and snotty while driving, and I'll sometimes call other drivers ugly names, but not much more than that.

Some of the funniest "calling other drivers ugly names" stuff in my life comes from my wife, and particularly on our way to church on Sunday morning. Everyone pisses her off on Sunday morning, and she angrily curses them, right before they pull into the same church parking lot that we're pulling into. :-)

But anyway... back to where I was heading with this. I think the anger you express, the anger that beats inside a young man's chest, is not all bad all the time. I don't know exactly how or why, but parts of it are tied to passion and drive.

My wife and I recently had a conversation about how nothing seems to anger or bother me, and she used a word to describe me that I found very painful -- indifferent. Ouch.

Ouch, because I fear that in some ways maybe she's right. I sure don't feel that sense of "young man anger" that I used to have inside my chest. I also (coincidentally?) don't feel as much drive and passion for many things, especially artistic and creative things, that I once did.

I know that in many circles of artistic and creative endeavors, people that reach a certain age begin to take on different roles. Many become teachers to younger people who do still have that creativity and passion. Many begin doing more on the "production" side of music or theater, for example.

I know that there are many exceptions to this, and certainly people will be ready to whip out their list of people who do not fit this pattern. But as a general observation in others (and most definitely as a personal observation in myself), I've found this to be more true than not.

Also, I think that it's interesting that you seem to have taken that C.S. Lewis quote to be talking primarily about anger. He uses anger as one example, but if you read the entire passage there, I think he's really talking about sinfulness in general, of which anger is only one example.

I think that his real point is that when situations arise suddenly and we act on our first impulse, or make our first thought or comment about it, we are often being most truthful, and our inner motives laid most bare, during that moment. When we have time to compose ourselves and think through what the "proper Christian response" is, that's when we put our phony public-friendly mask back on.

Seth Ward said...

Right on. I remember thinking I might be focusing a bit much on anger, but it is usually when I am the MOST uncharitable. In my anger. You can be angry and not sin but that rarely happens with me. Rare.

Other areas I do not have a problem. I am a pretty compassionate fellow and I am always taking up for the guy who is picked on. In other words, I am less likely to pass up an opportunity for showing Charity when I have my wits about me. It is when certain things hit me in the right place that all goodness goes out the window. Sometimes, if my heart is right and I have forgiven who I need to forgive and asked forgiveness from whom I need it, I don't react rashly. Now THAT is God working in me.

One thing,

Don't be hard on yourself because you are slow to anger. You are supposed to be. Maybe your wife is just giving you a hard time because you aren't as hot-headed as she is.

Don't confuse indifference with contentment. (you may not be) Even when I am striving for some GREAT unattainable goal I still need to be as calm as a placid like you are describing.

Anonymous said...

I have wondered that same thing about myself at times... my wife has asked me in the past, "how do you not get mad at this or that". most of the time the answer is simply, "i just don't care that much".

I wonder why.

Anonymous said...

I used to struggle a LOT with my temper on my commute to work. By the time I got to my office, I was totally mad at the world. Then one of my Bible Study teachers taught a lesson one week that changed my attitude. He said that he had always had a terrible temper while driving, and he was always getting irritated at fellow drivers. Then one day God laid it on his heart that maybe the person who cut him off did not cut him off intentionally...maybe they had just found out that their mother died. Or maybe they just received some really bad news from the doctor. Now when somebody in front of my car does something to irritate me, I try to think of all of the things that could be going on in that person's life that might be distracting them.

I, too, have been accused of being indifferent. I've always just said that I don't have much of a temper or that I'm content, but it's something to think about. We should be passionate about something.