The Rats in Our Lives

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Our thanks to Greg Hand for offering this week’s devotion!

Plato was reported to have said, “The greater part of instruction is being reminded of things you already know.” Samuel Johnson put it a slightly different way: “Man needs more to be reminded than instructed.” And Robert Fulgham probably received substantial royalties from his book, All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.

This principle applies to me—I realize that I need to be constantly reminded of things that I have already “learned.”

I have made a habit of recycling through daily readings, as devotional materials, from authors like C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others in addition to daily scripture readings. In my 2021 daily readings from A Year with C.S. Lewis, I recently received a refresher in Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostle’s Creed:

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” 

You see, I struggle with sin. At some point in just about every day, I agree with C.S. Lewis’ observation that I have probably committed some sin against charity. As Lewis stated: “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 guard.”

That’s not a good excuse. Lewis describes those traits as “rats.” “The suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding.” My reaction only shows what an ill-tempered man I am, which Lewis described as the rats in the cellar. 

This brings us to the Holy Spirit. According to Lewis, “these rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul.” He continues: “Now that cellar is out of reach of my conscious will. … And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do—if indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence as evidence of what we are—then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about. And this applies to my good actions too. … After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.”

This realization provides some understanding of why followers of Christ are told to take up our cross and die to ourselves. My self-will, ego, and pride are impediments to experiencing and reflecting God’s grace. I need constant reminders of that through daily prayer and study. It doesn’t matter that I’ve “learned” it before. I need to be reminded until the Holy Spirit is fully in charge.  

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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