God has been nudging me to reread C.S. Lewis's book, The Screwtape Letters recently. (<-- Thats a link to an online PDF version you can read for free) I read them 7-8 years ago, and I felt the need to go back to them and delve a little deeper. If you are unfamiliar with The Screwtape Letters, it is a series of letters from the a demon named Screwtape, to his apprentice demon (also nephew) Wormwood. Here is Wikipedia's summary of the book:
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from devils' viewpoints. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter. In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending God's love for man or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.
One of the main reason I love The Screwtape Letters is that it gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of the enemy in a tangible way. So often our knees buckle at the thought of "spiritual warfare". We hear that cliche phrase and immediately change the subject or we respond with something like "that stuff creeps me out"... Well, unfortunately turning a blind eye, hiding in a hole of ignorance or pretending that its imaginary is exactly what the enemy wants us to do.
In Screwtape's third letter he talks about a certain situation that has proven to take ahold of me time and time again. Wormwood's patient has recently become a believer and he has moved in with his mother. Screwtape gives some instruction on how to drive a wedge between the patient's mother and himself. This is what he said in the 3rd and 4th point:
"3. When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy—if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.
4. In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you and Glubose must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: "I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper."
As I read through this "instruction" from Screwtape to Wormwood, I thought about my own actions with my spouse, with family members, or co-workers... Yikes, this is a trap I can easily fall into. Those irritating glances, or using "innocent" words but with a condescending tone... Ouch, again!!
After suddenly becoming aware of my own faults I realized that I was not only hurting those around me, but I was falling right into the hands of my enemy... Satan. He was playing me like a fiddle.
Satan wants us to believe that Spiritual Warfare only exists in taro cards, crystal balls and seances, but the reality is that he (Satan) can be at work in patronizing remarks, judgmental thoughts, jabbing jargon and snobbish glances. This is exactly how he creeps into or relationships with friends, family and especially our spouse. All it takes is experiencing one or two of those "blow to the face" comments to drive a thick wedge between you and someone you love.
Just as I can be the one dishing out those arrogant arguments, I can just as easily be the party guilty of "oversensitive interpretation".... So, count me as guilty on both counts! (boo)
What an easy whirlpool to get caught up in... each reaction will spawn the other spinning faster and faster until your relationship is damaged or broken. (which is Satan's anticipated result)
SO HOW DO WE GUARD AGAINST THE ENEMY????
Don't be ignorant....Be ALERT and of SOBER MIND: Before reading this letter, I knew that my behavior was not "the best" but I was ignorant (in some ways) that it was actually "falling victim to temptation" or falling into the category of "spiritual warfare".
1 Peter 5:8-9 says: "8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
- Be Alert and of Sober Mind by living in the reality that Satan's mission is to devour.
- Resist Satan by identifying his voice and turning away.
- Stand Firm in Faith by being in the Word, praying, participating in corporate worship regularly.
- Not Feel Alone by knowing GOD is on your side and surrounding yourself with likeminded people.
Satan desires the antithesis of this: to be isolated, lacking faith, and to be used by him. Of course you read that and think, "oh, I would never be at that point", but reality is that most of us have been there.
Remind yourself of what Jesus said in John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full."
I ask this question to you and to myself.... Are you living life to the full as Christ intended? Or are you allowing Satan to steal your joy, kill your relationships and destroy your witness?
Its a daily process, we must reassess each day. God is for us! He wants our relationships to thrive, he wants our marriages to survive, he wants healthy families. He also wants us to live in the light, and sometimes that is hard to do, because we must face our faults and fess up to our mistakes, making amends where necessary and changing our behavior when conviction takes hold of our hearts. His ways are greater than our own, and we must trust them. Even though the skeptic in us wants to believe our husband had an ulterior motive in folding the laundry for us, sometimes the reality is that he was just trying to help!
So humble yourself before God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.
Thanks for reading.
This post is linked up to
"Prowess and Pearls" Doing You Well Wednesday #11