Sunday, August 13, 2006

So far away for far too long

[Far Away, Nickbelback]

In his book The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis wrote some of the most poignant prose I've ever read aside from God's Word. The basic premise is of an experienced demon, Screwtape, writing letters to a lesser-experienced demon and understudy named Wormwood. "The Enemy" refers to God the Father of the Judeo-Christian faith. Allow me to share a chapter of it with you (it's not as long as it looks, so don't just skip over it- it's really good!):

My dear Wormwood,

So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away," have you? I always thought the Training College had gone t pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians — half spirit and half animal. . . .As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation — the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life — his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now, it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself — creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now se that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creatures to stand up on its own legs — to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I shall give you some hints on how to exploit them.

Your affectionate uncle,

Now, Lewis talks about Christians being led astray and ending up in "our Father's house"- aka hell. I disagree with this- as does the Bible. Once someone is saved and receives forgiveness for their sin, they are saved. It's crucial to one's spiritual health so seek Christ and remain intimate with God but the fact is that once someone has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior they can't sin big enough to lose that salvation.

This is applicable to me because, as I have divulged in during recent entries, I recently have had a spiritual wake-up call. I responded immediately, and the first few weeks proved relatlively easy primarily due to the fact that things were exciting, fresh, refreshing, and exhilirating. In the last week or so, the freshness has worn off, and the tedious mundanity of my daily life has reared it's ugly head. It is, if you will, the trough that Lewis referred to.

Friday night, for the first time after three and a half weeks of not skipping a quiet time, I made the deliberate choice to forego my time in God's word and prayer, opting to "do my own thing" instead. This was wrong, and utterly sinful. I rejected Christ and chose to disobey.

The Lord is faithful, and has used this passage to bless me: most of us ask God to make us obey. Life would be SO much easier if I were a robot programmed to do God's will and never make my own choices. I can't lie- I would prefer this. However, I cannot deny the beauty of God's plan.

Think about it. Think of that one person you would only dare to dream of of spending your entire life with- whether you know him/her or not, get that person in your mind. If you're like me, you might have to utilize your imaginative juices, but think about him/her. Now, imagine that you could give him/her a potion to drink that would make him/her love you unconditionally, for life, totally committed and undeniably yours. Option two is that he/she would fall in love with you on his/her own, growing into that deep, lifelong love where they choose you.

I doubt many would choose option one. I certainly wouldn't. I see, all the more, God's infinite wisdom in allowing me to choose Him. The fact is, I'm at the point where God's saying, "Choose Me." He won't force me, or allow it to be an easy, breezy, beautiful road with no challenges. He allows the trough so that I will make Him my choice. And though it won't be easy, it will be worth it every night to know that I chose God that day; that even after a moment of not choosing Him, later I refused to wallow in that mistake and did right when offered another opportunity.

So Lord, I choose You. Despite it not being easy, I choose You.