I’m not a huge reader. Generally if the book isn’t fiction, Amish, or a cookbook I’m pretty much not interested. I have so much reading to do for school that I just can’t afford to waste my precious personal time on something that’s not brain candy.
When I read for fun, I want the book to be so easy to read that I don’t even know I’m reading, if that makes any sense. I don’t want to think about what I’m reading. I don’t want to stop and re-read a paragraph just to grasp the meaning of it. I don’t want to tote a dictionary along with me in order to understand the words. I want to pick up a book and immediately be sucked into a story that’s believable, easy, simple, and straight forward. Don’t twist me up, or make me feel terror, or give me nightmares, or leave me hangin‘ by some ‘to be continued…’ ending. At least not if that’s supposed to be my “for fun” reading.
On Sunday someone in our church handed me The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I will admit, I haven’t read anything by C.S. Lewis since I was a kid. One summer when I was about twelve I picked up the Chronicles of Narnia in the young adult section of the library. I’d been grounded from television (yes, for the whole summer) and I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time, so I thought I’d read. Back then, the books were still bound individually by story and not terribly thick, so reading the entire collection didn’t seem so daunting. At the time I didn’t realize what a great man C.S. Lewis was, nor the impact he’d had on Christian literature and theology. After all, I was twelve and not terribly intellectual (I’m still not!).
I quickly surveyed the book in my hands – not too thick only a couple hundred pages, and the dust jacket was quite interesting. I thought to myself, “What the heck, how bad can it be? If I don’t like it, I’ll just return it unread…no harm, no foul.”
On the way home, Sam suggested that I wasn’t going to like the book. For one, Lewis is very English and wrote Screwtape’s letters in the 60’s. He was fairly sure I wasn’t going to comprehend the language or historical references. He was right, for the most part anyway. However, the book drew me in immediately. The letters are short, but very poignant. They are evil and plotting and completely dark. I was convicted to examine my own life. Especially my prayer life.
I like to think of myself as a pretty pious Christian. Piety isn’t a bad thing for those of you who don’t have a grand grasp on the English language. Oh, I know the world tries to make piety out to be some horrible, self-righteous, hypocritical sin – that’s the beauty of a living language. But truly, piety is simply being virtuous, self-conscious of one’s actions, showing reverence for deity and religion, distinct from the secular culture, and marked by divine worship. It is being in the world but not of the world. It is about being fully committed to God – forgetting what man thinks about us. It is about making the right, Godly choices for my life – not about being self-righteous or hypocritical, although pious people are often thought of in those terms because we often choose not to participate in the sinful pleasures of the world. Many times people who do not care a whit about Christianity see pious people as being snobbish or “goodie-two-shoes” – or we’re “holy-rollers.” So sad really – we’re none of those things – we just live by a Higher standard.
Now that I’ve properly derailed the whole point of this post with that little rabbit trail, lets get back to the book. As I was reading it, I was feeling terribly convicted in certain areas of my own life. Areas that I thought were fine, but I’ve been noticing some slips.
For example, I’ve noticed some slips in my attitude toward others – I’ve been more nit-picky and critical lately.
My speech – it has been easier these past couple of months to fly off the handle and say things I don’t really mean, or even to fall into **gasp** gossip – yes, I’m still fully human and am perfectly capable of great lapses in judgment.
I have also been prone to wallowing in self-pity and anger lately. Poor me…nobody loves me….everybody hates me….guess I’ll go and eat some worms….
As I read Screwtape’s letters to Wormwood these areas of my life jumped off the page and smacked me in the face so hard it brought tears to my eyes! All these vile slips have been in the back of my mind for weeks – festering away, stinking up my spirit, and gnawing on my conscious – but I kept ignoring them, hoping they’d just go away. I realized this inaction is just what Satan wants me to do. He wants nothing more than for me to ignore my un-Christlike behavior; allowing it to continue on, unaddressed and unchecked, so that at some point it becomes habitual, and eventually, slowly, it takes over my life and draws me away from the Lord. Wow…it seemed so simple, so raw, so obvious. And yet I have remained blinded to it for weeks. For weeks, I tell you!
Yes, I have much work to do. Thankfully, the Lord isn’t finished with me yet.