Three rock climbers are preparing for an ascent of El Capitain, that glorious three thousand foot rock face in Yosemite National Park. Climber 1 is able of body and mind. Climber 2 however has only one arm. And climber 3 has acrophobia, a fear of heights. When the three successfully complete their ascent, the accolades for rock climbing prowess are showered on climbers 2 and 3.
“Climber 2, how did you do it with one arm?” a reporter asks.
“Because my friends gave me a hand.” he quips back.
“Climber 3, how did you overcome your fear of heights?”
“I decided it wasn’t relevant.” he smiles. “Acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights. But the fear when you’re ascending El Capitain is fully rational.”
This delightful little story (it was delightful, wasn’t it?) highlights an important fact that when two people undertake the same task, but one has a disadvantage, then when they both complete the task the one with the disadvantage is lauded over the one that lacked the disadvantage.
Now think not about three climbers but rather three suburban dads who are engaged in the equivalent of rock climbing: raising two kids and providing for a family. Dad 1, like climber 1, is perfectly normal. Dad 2 and Dad 3 however each have their own “handicap”. However these handicaps are not visible like climber 2. Rather, they are invisible like climber 3. Dad 2 has pedophilic tendencies. And Dad 3 occasionally has violent impulses to kill his children. Both Dad 2 and Dad 3 are horrified and disgusted by their impulses. And so Dad 2 and Dad 3 struggle to act appropriately day to day in circumstances where Dad 1 has no struggle at all.
Perhaps you remember Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous Milwaukee serial killer and cannibal? He started out as a young man with the impulse to torture animals and with fantasies of killing people. And he progressed from there. It turned out after he was imprisoned that his own father admitted in an interview that he too had fantasies of killing people as a child but he had refused to give in to them. Don’t we laud Mr. Dahmer Sr. for his self restraint?
So like our admiration for the one armed and acrophobic climbers, don’t we laud the achievement in self-restraint of dads 1 and 2? But the consequence is a bit strange, isn’t it? Does this mean that the more bizarre and sickening the inclination of the agent, the more admiration we should have when that agent suppresses the inclination and carries out tasks that the rest of us consider to be merely mundane?
And what does this mean for Christ and his “struggle” with temptation? With what did he struggle exactly?