Of Mice and Sin
As I go to get a snack, I notice flour on a storage box below the shelf. How'd that get there? I glance around, move different boxes, and there it is. A hole in the bottom of the flour bag. Immediately I know it's a mouse. How did it get all the way up here, roughly chest height, on a floating shelf? We'll never know... Most, if not all, of us have had this sinking feeling. A mouse, or mice, setting up camp in your kitchen or garage. To get rid of them requires cleaning, setting traps, and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In our situation, it was made worse by our home renovation, which meant we'd not put down baseboards yet in our pantry. But even still, it's always perplexing as to how the mice got where they did. We ultimately found a hole the mouse had eaten through the drywall to enter the pantry. Next, we set traps. Typically you'll put out a couple, but Samantha was a woman-possessed, and we ended up with eight. She wanted to make sure there was no way they evaded detection.
So now we wait. The first night we sat in bed expectantly, hoping we'd hear the snap of the trap. Then in the morning, like children on Christmas day, we scampered to the kitchen to see...no traps tripped. How can this be?! No mouse was caught, so I hopped on Youtube to watch more mouse videos than anyone else in history has watched. And through that I saw something interesting: mice are pretty smart creatures.
We think we're smart, but it seems the mice know the game. Some see the trap and go right towards it, oblivious to the danger they're approaching. Others slowly approach and then back off, like they know the danger in front of them. The curious ones scamper elsewhere, but then come back and get a little closer. Then they lick the bait ever so lightly, knowing the potential havoc that could happen. But slowly they let down their guard, or take that risk that was just a little too much. SNAP. These mice aren't caught because they don't know the danger, but because they let go of their initial hesitation and caution. Another thing that struck me: it seems the mice always get caught. Eventually the mouse problem goes away.
We're not much different. Whether big or small, we struggle to separate ourselves from the temptations that haunt us. We tell ourselves to take in less of the world (Netflix binge anyone?) and instead read more of God's Word. We tell ourselves we'll quit eating the junk food or the late-night snack and instead eat more healthy. We gossip and judge those around us, but give them a smile and a wave when they walk by. We exaggerate the size of the fish we caught, book we read, or golf shot we hit. Whatever behavior or sin nature we're trying to address, we still find ourselves sucked in. Just like the mouse to the trap, we only have so much willpower before we break.
This quote from C.S. Lewis puts it so well.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Our sin nature makes us this way: far too easily pleased. We are ripe for mistakes and constantly returning to our place of weakness. Our sin nature means we're going to fail and God isn’t surprised by that. We're thankful that God forgives us, but it is our duty to setup guardrails that make it easier to stay on his path.
So, how can we address this magnetism towards sin? How can we keep ourselves from being “too easily pleased”?
First, acknowledge your temptation and where it comes from. It doesn't come from God. He has your back.
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;” - James 1:13 (NIV)
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
But temptations can come from the devil (1 Peter 5:8) and from ourselves (James 1:14).
In acknowledging your temptation, you may need to confess to Godly counsel. This will provide some accountability along the way, and give you wise counsel as you go through your struggle.
"Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." - Proverbs 19:20-21
Second, separate yourself from it! I mentioned in a previous post that I've been in multiple car accidents at the same intersection (none my fault, for the record). When driving through the city, I avoid that intersection if at all possible. Not because I'm scared, but I've seen the danger that lurks there. If you've fallen prey to temptation, it's foolish to allow it to sit, lurking in your house. While I probably won't get in another wreck at the said intersection, I've seen the danger and don't want to allow it the opportunity to bite again.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” - Matthew 5:29 (ESV)
Third, seek out God's Word. We often stop at number two and expect that we can get through our temptation on our own power. But without an arsenal of scripture and prayer to back us up, we're bound to fall for this temptation again. In Ephesians 6:17, scripture is like putting on the armor of protection, with scripture being the sword. The sword is the only weapon used offensively and defensively. Offensively to proactively chop down any dishonoring desires and defensively when that temptation has entered our purview.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” - Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
If we don't remove the temptation or change our environment in ways that allow us to be successful, we will fall back into our same patterns. Just like the mouse, we return to the same well-worn paths that we've failed on before.
Eventually we caught our mouse. One morning my wife awoke with a little less excitement than the previous days, opened our pantry, only to be startled by a mouse at her foot. The mouse had been caught, then dragged itself and the trap another six feet, attempting to chew another hole through the drywall. He would do anything in his power to try and get away. There is a lesson in that as well, but it is one for another day.