Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Surprised by Our Choices

Today we are discussing the Chapter Morality and Psychoanalysis in Mere Christianity.  The gist of it is that people with psychological issues will not be held by God to be responsible for acts committed which they did not have the ability to control.

Last night when I went to bed, I was thinking about my aunt.  My Aunt June* died about twenty years ago. Actually, she was murdered.  She was leaving Church after lighting a candle and was on her way to do some Christmas shopping when someone tried to snatch her purse.   Auntie June fought back.  The snatcher became her attacker.  He banged her head against the sidewalk repeatedly and took the purse.  She went to the Emergency Room and had Christmas with the family a few days later.   The next week she had a brain hemorrhage and died the week after that.

We have always believed that the attack and her sudden illness were related.  Over and over we in the family have said to one another that she shouldn't have fought back.   She should have let him have her purse.   She couldn't have possibly had so much money in her purse for it to be worth the risk.  I said to myself that I'd learn from this, and if caught in the same situation, I'd give up the purse.

Guess what.  I lied to me.  Two years later I was on my way home from a job interview in a neighborhood my daddy TOLD me he didn't want me to work in when a woman grabbed my purse while I was crossing the street to catch a bus.   I yanked my purse back and looked at her.   She kept walking like nothing happened.   How much was in that purse?   Five whole dollars and a bus pass.  I didn't even have a credit card.  One could say that I needed the bus pass to get home, but honestly, I could have gone into a store, called the police, asked them to call my daddy, who would have picked me up without even an "I told you so."  (My daddy didn't say "I told you so."  He gave a look which said volumes, but those four words never passed his lips.)  But my  instinct was to fight for what I thought was mine, not to remember what happened to Aunt June, and submit my purse.

I was young, though, right?   With age and experience, I'd be able to learn from what happened to my aunt.  Sure.  But not yet.  Two years ago while Christmas shopping two young men tried to grab my purse outside of Borders.  I fought back, and they quickly moved on.  They were gone before I could dial my cell phone on the other side of the door.  (Yes.  I did get to keep my purse.)

I didn't understand my Aunt's state of mind twenty years ago when she chose to fight back.    I judged her to be in the wrong, but I didn't understand that in that flash of a moment, there was no thinking, only reflex.  One could reflexively let go of the purse, or fight back, but there is no time to think or to choose. Honestly, I don't even know what I was thinking.   I first remember thinking when I was dialing the phone.  (And that thought was "What the french toast did you just do?   Didn't you learn anything from what happened to Aunt June?")

I never judged Aunt June's reaction to be sinful, just unwise.  Yet I was unwise twice, even after promising myself I'd react differently if I ever found myself in similar circumstances.  I can see how sin could be similar, even if time isn't a factor.  One may not have the presence of mind to be mindful of their actions.  Sin is not just a bad action, but the choice to do something bad.


We see only the result which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of a man's psychological make up is probably due to his body: when his body dies all this will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see everyone as he really was.   There will be surprises.

Yes.  There will be surprises,  I'm sure.


More discussions about this Chapter can be found on Connecting to Impact.

*Auntie June's real name wasn't June.  I don't know that her children would be okay with me telling her story, so I changed her name.

4 comments:

jasonS said...

This was a very interesting chapter for me. Lots of things to ponder and you've given me more. Thanks Helen. I want to live my life in such a way that those surprises are fewer.

Glynn said...

Helen -- you took Lewis' words and then illustrated them with your story. Great post!

nance marie said...

reflex! man, what a good story!

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Wow! What a story. I haven't been mugged, but my Dad has. Scary stuff.