lessons from screwtape

“Did you mark how naturally — as if he’d been born for it — the earth-born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! ‘Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extrication hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?’

As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it! — that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he know that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not ‘Who are you?’ but ‘So it was you all the time.’ All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.

He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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i was very privileged last night to see max mclean’s brilliant performance of the screwtape letters. i do not use the word “brilliant” lightly in describing it; he drew you in and in and in and caught you up in the reality of the struggle of evil to thwart and corrupt Good. i read through screwtape several weeks ago in preparation for the performance, since i’d started it once upon a time and abandoned it for something else. i was struck by how timely lewis’ insights were for our modern life today even though he wrote them in the midst of world war ii. there really is nothing new under the sun (not even in king solomon’s day, and that was quite a while ago); mankind is continually corrupt and in need of cleansing.

i think some of the hardest words to say to God are “yet not my will, but Thy will be done.”

so incredibly hard. but so incredibly necessary.

watching a representation of a senior demon giving advice to his young demon nephew on how to kill his “patient’s” love for God made me all too aware of the war going on in my own heart. the feelings going on in there lately have been akin to charles dickens’ description of ebenzer scrooge: squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous. i know the little immediate “why” of it, but i don’t understand the big picture of what it is, or what i’m supposed to do with it, or how i’m supposed to resolve it. i feel like it’s a matter of kill or be killed.

when Jesus prayed “yet not My will, but Thy will,” He was killed so He could rise again as conqueror over sin and death. He is the one Who won and Who fights for me, even when all i can see is the darkness and storms of my own heart and mind. He’s the invisible Presence in the room, as lewis said, even when i don’t sense His nearness.

so, not my will, but Yours be done.

and i said, devil, disappear.