Rats in the Cellar

by Sean Ewing

Over the years I have had a few encounters with a rat. Each time I came away with the same impression, rats are ugly, nasty and they give me the creeps! No one likes to stumble upon a rat.  It’s always an unpleasant surprise.  C.S. Lewis draws a powerful parallel between rats and our own sinfulness.

“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.”

This quote really resonates with me.  Rats are ugly and creepy, and so is my sin! Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature. Sin includes not only individual acts but also attitudes that are contrary to the attitudes God requires of us. David in got it right when he said “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”.

My sin is against the Most High, Holy God!

Are there rats in your cellar? Consider this prayer.

God of love, I bow in your presence, humbled and in awe of your astonishing love for me. Though I cannot fathom why you should commit yourself to me in the full knowledge of my sin, I praise and thank you that you did. Though I cannot grasp why you should remain faithful when I have been so faithless, I praise you that you have. Though I cannot know why you sent your Son to suffer and die to rescue me and bring me into a right relationship with you, with reverence and wonder I praise and thank you for what you have done. Help me remember that I have been delivered from the crushing debt of sin. Thank you for sending your Son into the world to cancel my debt of sin through his sacrifice and death on the cross. Give me greater ability to grasp the dimensions of your amazing love and fill my heart with this redeeming love so that something of your nature may be reflected in me through Jesus Christ. Amen.

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar. (ESV)

There was a time when Sean Ewing was a corporate cube farm dweller managing IT projects. These days he occupies his home basement office working as an IT project manager. His passion has nothing to do with the conundrum of managing software development. Rather, his true passion is living and serving to bring God glory.