How many of you have ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? I admit, I read it many years ago and remembered very little. I’ve had the privilege recently of being a substitute teacher at the school my children attend. Lately, I’ve spent a good amount of time in the 11th grade Rhetoric and Christian Thought class, and they’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters. We finished up the book recently, and I have been mulling it over ever since.
If you’re not familiar with the book, Lewis has created a fictitious correspondence between a lead demon, Wormwood, and his nephew and junior tempter, Screwtape. The letters follow Wormwood’s advice to Screwtape on how to win the Patient away from the Enemy (God). Though the book was first published in 1942, it still speaks to the culture in which we currently live.
I have no intention of reviewing the whole book for you here, though I would highly recommend that you read it! I want to focus in on the final letter (spoiler alert….) in which Wormwood berates Screwtape because the Patient has died while belonging to the Enemy. The demons have lost. Wormwood laments that now Screwtape has no more power over the Patient.
The students and I discussed why the demon’s power is no longer effective. Many of them mentioned that Wormood details how the Patient has now seen who and what Screwtape is and how he operates. So, they surmised, the Patient is now wise to the tempter and the temptations and thus their power is removed. As we pushed further into the text, I think we found a much more significant reason.
Wormwood writes, “All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you [Screwtape] could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door.” Wormwood acknowledges that this fact is inexplicable. Let that sink in for a moment.
Who the Patient now sees, in whose Presence he now resides, is so monumentally greater than anything that the demons could conjure up to tempt him. It is not his knowledge of Screwtape’s plans that renders them ineffective. It is because the Patient now has seen the “Enemy” face to face. Christ is so infinitely superior to anything and everyone else, that there is nothing that can tempt the Christian.
I was cut to the heart upon unpacking that metaphor. The students were a taken aback as well. The unspoken question then to us was “do I view Christ in that way?” Is He that much more glorious, lovely, valuable, worthy than anything this world has to offer? The “right” answer is a resounding “YES”! But does my life evidence that I really believe that? Am I more interested in the “raddled harlot” than the long lost love of my life?
This world has much to offer in the way of beauty and delights. This is an art blog after all, beauty makes it go 🙂 But we must remember that all the beauty this world affords is nothing compared to the One who makes that beauty. What are the things in your life (they are often good and valuable things) that compete with the beauty of the One who made you? Where are you tempted to seek comfort apart from Christ?
The Pslamist tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy, and in His hand are pleasures forevermore. Let that promise encourage you as you face your own temptations. There is a day coming when we will see Him face to face.